A team of Nottingham University students has created an ultrasonic glove providing a remote sense of touch to visually impaired people.
Designed to replace the traditional white stick and guide dogs, the glove reacts to objects in its proximity with vibration that gets stronger and weaker depending on the distance between the glove and the object.
The device has won the inaugural Entrepreneurship and Business Competition run by Nottingham University Business School and the Engineers in Business Fellowship.
“Originally we were developing multiple ideas and couldn’t quite decide which one to follow,” said Raivat Luthra from the five-strong team behind the project, named SenSei.
“Eventually we decided for the glove, as we thought it would allow us to give something back to the world and help tackle the problem of blindness or partial blindness.”
Working similarly to a parking sensor in a car, the glove’s ultrasonic sensor generates various levels of sound to alert the wearer to solid obstacles in his or her surroundings.
The team is currently focusing on furthering the design to turn the glove into a fully marketable product.
“The biggest engineering challenge is to make it small,” said Serkan Oztas, a member of the team. “At the beginning, the major drawback of our prototype was that it had to be linked to a computer. We basically have to make that computer as small as a chip and fit it onto the glove.”
Looking at new materials and innovative manufacturing methods including 3D printing, the team hopes to present a lightweight system that would be comfortable to wear and use.
“We are looking at things such as the ergonomics, the human factors, so that we can present the best type of glove suitable for the general public,” said Luthra.
“We are getting a lot of help from the university, including IT consulting, business management consulting or engineering consulting. We are even using a 3D printing workshop to print out some prototypes."
The team hopes to secure a business development grant in the near future and offer the device not only to partially sighted individuals but also governments and institutions.