A research project called the ‘Proximity Hat” developed at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology uses ultrasound to emit and receive signals that carry spatial information. The design goal was to create a precise tool that provides spatial information to the user without the drawbacks of sound and vibration signals that can irritate, distract attention and lack intuitiveness. By contrast, KIT’s Proximity Hat utilizes pressure to stimulate the blind or visually impaired user.

Six ultrasound modules sized 5 centimeters each perform horizontal surround scans of the space around the wearer with a range of several meters and a resolution of a few centimeters. To ensure fast, reliable information even if the user is moving, the scan frequency is 50 times per second.
A number of “punches” embedded in an elastic material convey distance information into pressure at points on the user’s head. Transmitting pressure information does not affect other human senses. Existing solutions that make use of sound or vibration are frequently perceived as irritating, uncomfortable and annoying.

The range-to-pressure conversion principle should have potential for the VR industry including game designers. Hats off to KIT!