"If we were approached by an interested automaker, it could be in their production cars in three to five years," he says, noting he already has had preliminary talks with three automakers and a European original equipment manufacturer.
In addition to possible devices for the vision- and hearing-impaired, Provancher says the technology could be used in a handheld device to let people feel fingertip-stretch pulses rather than hear clicks as they scroll through an iPod music playlist. He also says it might be used as a new way to interact with an MP3 music player in a vehicle, or to control games.
Provancher set the stage for the tactile navigation devices in two research papers this year in the journal Transactions on Haptics, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Haptics is to the sense of touch what optics is to vision.
In one of those studies, Provancher tested a haptic device that stretched the fingertip skin in four horizontal directions (right, left, front, back) and found that relatively faster and larger (one twenty-fifth of an inch) movements conveyed direction information most accurately.
In that study, Provancher also mentioned other possible uses for such devices, including allowing command centers to direct emergency responders and urban soldiers to incident locations, or directing air traffic controllers' attention to important information on a computer screen.
|Contact: Lee J. Siegel|
University of Utah