The blind and visually impaired have difficulty avoiding obstacles in their way and often bump into things or fall down throughout the course of their day. The traditional solution to this problem is to walk with a cane, which the user taps on the ground in a sweeping manner to detect obstacles. This is an imperfect method and does not have a great success rate.
Enter HermeSee. HermeSee combines a pressure sensor, a distance sensor, and a vibration motor to provide immediate, realtime, tactile feedback of the user's surroundings. These devices are embedded directly into the sole of a shoe in a modular enclosure that can be deployed in any brand and type of footwear. When the user approaches an obstacle, the sensors embedded in the enclosure detect obstacles up to 30in (80cm) away and vibrate the shoe to alert the wearer about the approaching barrier.
We built our project using a 3D printed enclosure (courtesy of MLH and the NSA), Velostat pressure-sensitive paper, an infrared distance sensor, a 60mA DC vibration motor and a Digispark microprocessor. An identical set of components is included in each shoe. When the user plants their foot while walking, the force on the pressure sensor is increased relative to stationary value, and this change triggers the distance sensor to take a measurement. If the distance is within a pre-specified range, the vibration motor is activated.
Adam's friend with albinism at Rensselaer inspired this project. Albinism is a genetic disorder that causes visual impairments in the majority of patients. The project was completed using a shoe in his size and will be delivered to him after the event.
Adam drew CAD renderings for the 3D printed models and provided initial planning and concept support.
Jad and Alex wrote C code for the microcontroller to implement an auto-calibration algorithm as well as the general program flow. In addition, they fabricated Velostat pressure pad sensors and integrated them with the other embedded systems.
Flor and Adam hollowed out the innards of a pair of shoes, and everyone worked to design the embedded circuit and debug hardware and software systems.