New ‘Haptic Language’ Tech Guides the Blind Through City Streets

New 'Haptic Language' Tech Guides the Blind Through City Streets
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A Brooklyn company is designing a haptic feedback wearable meant to help seeing-impaired people navigate their environments.

WearWorks has developed a wristband called Beyond Sight that guides the blind by creating virtual “walls” — the wristband will give haptic feedback, buzzing if the wearer is facing or moving in the wrong direction. It’s an intuitive way for people who can’t rely on a screen to navigate to walk through a city safely.

The prototype Beyond Sight wristband is thoughtfully designed and obviously hopes to seamlessly integrate into a person’s life. But while the wristband itself may be a good first step, the company’s most promising potential — and their primary objective — is the development of a haptic feedback “language,” which could use vibration to convey and communicate complex messages. In the words of the company, “our ultimate goal is to create a mode of communication that is intuitive, non-intrusive, and omnidirectional — for everyone.” That’s obviously a loftier goal, but it could have far-reaching implications beyond helping blind people navigate their environment more safely.

WearWorks is currently working with Urban-X, a startup accelerator based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, which hopes to foster companies that develop systems and mechanisms to make cities and city infrastructure more livable. Some of Urban-X’s alumni include Buzzware, a supercharging commercial drone network, and Farmshelf, a system for developing modular urban farms.

While the WearWorks system is currently only available on their proprietary wristband, the real interest is whether or not the haptic feedback “language” would be scalable on a more mass-market device. The Apple Watch, for example, already has a haptic feedback mechanism built within it. Considering Cupertino’s increasing focus on health and wellness, a haptic language that could help a segment of the population lead easier and safer lives seems like a natural fit. And that could just be the start, as the ability to convey nuanced information via such a system could have a lot of potential.

Applying a haptic language that could aid the blind to a watchOS app seems like a natural fit.

Of course, if that’s the ultimate goal, it might still be a long way off. There’s no evidence that WearWorks has plans to partner with larger tech companies in the near future — at least, not yet. For now, it’s a promising tech with a rather noble goal: making people’s lives just a little bit easier.

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