Wearable Sensing and Tactile System for Safe Spatial Navigation

Technology #18267

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Daniela Rus
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
External Link (danielarus.csail.mit.edu)
Robert Katzschmann
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Brandon Araki
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Managed By
Daniel Dardani
MIT Technology Licensing Officer
Patent Protection

Wearable sensing and tactile system for safe spatial navigation

Provisional Patent Application Filed


This technology is a wearable device that aids individuals who are blind or visually (BVI) impaired in safely navigating their surroundings. It uses an array of sensors to extract information about the environment, such as the distance and direction of obstacles, and provides haptic feedback so that the user may avoid obstacles and find open paths.

Problem Addressed

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 285 million people worldwide are blind or visually impaired. Visual impairments can make it difficult to localize obstacles and identify objects of interest in the surrounding world, posing challenges to independent mobility. While many BVI individuals may detect the free space in their immediate vicinity using a cane, this is not ideal as it only provides information about the surrounding space in one direction. To address this, the Inventors have developed a wearable sensing system for navigation that provides multi-dimensional haptic feedback to inform a user of their surroundings in all directions. This enables a more thorough and safe spatial navigation for BVI individuals.


This wearable navigation system consists of an array of sensors and a haptic feedback device that work in tandem to deliver information about the distance and direction of obstacles in the user’s environment. The sensor array is arranged around a user’s body such that each distance value is associated with a direction. Each sensor detects the distance to the nearest obstacle in its field of view, and that value is mapped to a vibratory actuator on the feedback device, which forms a band that can be tightened around the user’s body. The rate and intensity of the actuators’ pulses are modulated to convey distance information: strong, fast pulses indicate that an object is nearby, while slow, weak pulses or no pulse indicate that an object is distant or that no object is detected. The vibratory actuators are spaced so that the user can distinguish between them and associate a direction with each one, such as forward, left or right. This system can be designed as a vest, belt or a pendant that can be worn by a BVI user. Information about the distance and direction of objects can be then delivered through a haptic belt, braille device, or auditory device.


  • Array of sensors and actuators enables detection of objects and distances in all directions
  • Flexible system can be worn on different parts of the body (e.g. sensors can be mounted on waist or head; haptic actuators can be mounted on chest, back or forearms)
  • System is portable, discrete and reliable
  • System is low-cost and energy efficient