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Haptic Taco Helps You Navigate By Feel

By IEEE Spectrum

June 10, 2016

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Yale University researchers are developing small haptic peripherals that are designed to help drivers navigate using just their sense of touch.

The "Haptic Taco" is a little cube that expands and contracts in the user's hand to navigate to a predetermined destination. "The continuous contour improves the haptic impression of the device modifying its volume, rather than simple linear motion of two faces," says Adam J. Spiers, a member of Yale's Grasping & Manipulation, Rehabilitation Robotics, and Biometrics (GRAB) Lab.

The device's functionality is based on growing and shrinking. To navigate with it, users pair it with a navigation app on a mobile device; the device will maximize its volume into a rectangular prism, and then slowly shrink itself back down to a cube as the user moves toward the destination. The goal is to provide intuitive but not distracting sensations, according to Spiers.

The researchers tested the Haptic Taco by asking a group of users to navigate around a series of invisible points in a small room. On average, using the Haptic Taco was about half as efficient as taking a straight-line path.

The researchers note the one-degree-of-freedom Haptic Taco performed just as well as the two-degrees-of-freedom Haptic Sandwich, suggesting providing less information to the user does not necessarily lead to worse navigation performance.

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