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ThinkMind // International Journal On Advances in Life Sciences, volume 7, numbers 1 and 2, 2015 // View article lifsci_v7_n12_2015_6


FutureBody-Finger: A Novel Alternative Aid for Visually Impaired Persons

Authors:
Kiyohide Ito
Junichi Akita
Yoshiharu Fujimoto
Akihiro Masatani
Makoto Okamoto
Tetsuo Ono

Keywords: haptic interface; somatic sensation; ecological interface; assistive technology; electric travel aid.

Abstract:
We have developed a sensory substitution device (SSD), called FutureBody-Finger (FB-Finger) based on a “smart” mechanism with an ecological interface. The primary aim of FB-Finger is to enable visually impaired persons to “recognize” their surrounding environment, specifically in terms of distance. FB-Finger comprises a position-sensitive device (PSD) sensor unit and a small actuator unit and is used to sense the distance as follows: (1) The distance between a (visually impaired) user and an object is measured via ultrasonic waves or infrared rays radiated from the PSD sensor unit; (2) Information on the measured distance is transformed in the actuator unit into haptic stimulation (“somatosensory stimulation”) and then sent to a servo motor incorporated in the actuator unit; and (3) A lever connected to the servo motor catches the stimulation and creates angular motions to convey the information to the user’s finger. In order to afford the device simple use and portability, FB-Finger was designed with a shape such that the forefinger skin/joints receive somatosensory stimulation. In this paper, we outline the concept underlying FB-Finger, describe its underlying mechanism, and report on two psychological experiments conducted. The results of the experiments show that FB-Finger estimates the distance between two objects (i.e., the user and an object) more accurately, and the somatosensory interface enclosed in the device performs better, than commercially available SSDs. On the basis of these findings, we also discuss the effectiveness, possible future improvements, and applicability of FB-Finger to electric travel aids and other assistive aids.

Pages: 54 to 64

Copyright: Copyright (c) to authors, 2015. Used with permission.

Publication date: June 30, 2015

Published in: journal

ISSN: 1942-2660

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