Staying on the straight and narrow

Whether you’re blind, or simply the sort of person who walks headfirst into telegraph poles whilst engrossed in conversation on your mobile phone, an invention from the University of Florida could be just what you need.

Dale Milcetich, a UF electrical and computer engineering student has designed a helmet equipped with sensors that detect when the wearer is about to run into something. The helmet then beeps or vibrates, alerting the wearer to change course.

Eyebotic is basically a bicycle helmet equipped with three infrared sensors that detect objects as far as five feet away. The sensors are connected through a microprocessor to four vibrating motors and an earpiece. The wearer has two options. If he or she selects sound mode, the earpiece makes a tone that increases in pitch as the wearer nears an object. In vibration mode, the motors vibrate in different sequences based on object’s proximity.

However, in its current form the helmet (which is powered by eight AA batteries) is too bulky and can’t be used outside because infrared radiation from the sun confuses the sensors.

The use of sonar sensors and further miniaturisation of battery technology will overcome these problems, commented the inventor. Batteries and the other technology become more lightweight, the idea could lead to a more practical device, Milcetich claimed.

Tony Arroyo, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of UF’s Machine Intelligence Laboratory, said the device could even be made smart.

‘This is a very early prototype and you could put a lot more intelligence into it,’ he said. ‘For example, you could make it trainable, so it would remember the layout of particular buildings and locations.’