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A joystick that can communicate directions to white cane users

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

At the symposium of Haptic for Inclusion held at the University of Borås, Sweden, Hassan Dogar, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds has presented an interesting vibrotactile joy stick technology that can be useful for people with visual impairment.

This vibrotactile joystick uses clock phases to indicate directions (e.g., 3 o’clock means a sharp right turn). The device is envisioned to be integrated into a smart white cane, where the cane is connected to a navigation system that communicates the walking direction to the user through the cane.

Particularly, the direction of motion will be indicated through vibratory feedback on the desired direction of motion. The user is expected to actively search for the intended direction by moving the joystick and finding the vibration on a particular clock phase. The dents around the stick (left in the image below) makes it a lot easier to map the location of vibration with the clock phase direction. I did not expect it to make that much difference until I experimented with the stick that has a smooth inner circle (right in the image below) when I made many errors. Hassan’s goal is to incorporate the joystick into white canes and to leave the technology as an open source for all interested stakeholders.

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