Ever been in a supermarket aisle, looking up and down the displays for that one can of tomato soup you want, but finding nothing but rows upon rows of pickled mushrooms? In a cluttered scene, it can be hard to find the one item you’re looking for, so researchers at the Helsinki and Max Plank Institute for Informatics have developed a prototype glove that can help you find a specific object in such a 3D environment. The glove works on a hot/cold principle, and vibrates with varying degrees of intensity as your hand approaches the item you need. Using these cues, test subjects were able to locate items up to three times faster than without the gloves.
The solution builds on inexpensive off-the-shelf components such as four vibrotactile actuators on a simple glove and a Microsoft Kinect sensor for tracking the user’s hand. The researchers published a dynamic guidance algorithm that calculates effective actuation patterns based on distance and direction to the target.
This would work well in places like a supermarket, or even a library, where it’s common to spend too much time locating things. There is no talk of commercialization at the moment, but it’s often in research settings like these that some of the most exciting consumer technologies are born.