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Ultrasonic range-finder with haptic feedback


“An ultrasonic range-finding hat with variable haptic feedback for obstacle detection.”

-Project Sound Bite

For our ECE 4760 final project, we designed and implemented an ultrasonic range-finding hat that uses haptic feedback to alert its wearer about obstacles in his or her path. The hat is equipped with an ultrasonic transmitter/receiver circuit, which is capable of emitting short pulses of ultrasonic-frequency (approximately 40 kHz) sound, at a level of about 120 dB. These pulses then echo off the closest object in the line of sight of the hat and are picked up by the receiver. The time delay between sending the initial pulse and receiving the echo gives a sense of how far away the obstacle is from the ultrasonic sensor, which can be conveyed to the person by vibrating the hat at a level proportional to that distance. This allows the person to understand what obstacles are in his or her path and to respond accordingly. Specifically, this project is intended as a proof-of-concept/prototype for a product that would ultimately be used by sight-impaired individuals to detect walls or other obstructions, reducing their dependency on canes.

Ultrasonic range-finder with haptic feedback

An illustration of an ultrasonic pulse echoing off an obstacle and returning to a receiver.

High Level Design

Rationale and Source of Our Project Idea

Many animal species utilize echolocation to identify prey or to better understand their surroundings. Arguably, the most famous implementation of this technique in the animal kingdom is the use of ultrasonic echolocation by bats to understand the size, distance, and characteristics of their prey (insects). However, the use of these principles need not be limited to bats and other animals, but could help humans with guidance and navigation as well, especially humans who are blind and have difficulty understanding their surroundings using “normal” senses. Therefore, the rationale for this project was to design a system that is built upon the principles of ultrasonic echolocation to allow a person with a disability to get around and understand their surroundings more easily.

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