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Haptic Vibrating Belts Guide U.S. Soldiers Through the Darkness

• Rebecca Boyle via

Soldiers already have plenty of nighttime tech to help them navigate battlefields, but goggles can be clunky and obtrusive, and backlit GPS displays can betray a lurking warfighter’s position. A new haptic interface developed by Army researchers will help soldiers feel their way through the darkness instead.

Researchers at the Army Research Office developed a vibrating belt with eight mini actuators — “tactors” — that signify all the cardinal directions. The belt is hooked up to a GPS navigation system, a digital compass and an accelerometer, so the system knows which way a soldier is headed even if he’s lying on his side or on his back.

The tactors vibrate at 250 hertz, which equates to a gentle nudge around the middle. Researchers developed a sort of tactile morse code to signify each direction, helping a soldier determine which way to go, New Scientist explains. A soldier moving in the right direction will feel the proper pattern across the front of his torso. A buzz from the front, side and back tactors means “halt,” a pulsating movement from back to front means “move out,” and so on.


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