Haptic Shoes for Astronauts & Earthlings

Haptic Shoes for Astronauts & Earthlings

Researchers from MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts are working on new space shoes with built-in sensors and tiny, haptic motors. The vibrations produced through the haptics can help guide the wearer around or over obstacles.

This could really help astronauts on space missions, where falls can be serious: they not only use up valuable time and oxygen, but also heighten the risk that the suit will be punctured or damaged.

What's really great is that the space shoe could have applications here on Earth, too, by helping with navigation systems for
 the visually impaired.

The first version of the device will have three haptic motors on each shoe - at the heel, big toe, instep and towards the front of the outside of the foot. The intensity of vibrations will vary to jump from low to high intensity when the wearer is at risk of colliding with an obstacle.

The high-intensity stimuli will also be pulsed, to help distinguish them from the low-intensity ones.In principle, the motor at the side of the foot could help guide the user around obstacles, but the first trial of the boot will concentrate entirely on the problem of stepping over obstacles of different heights. 

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