Carnegie Mellon University
Semester: Fall 2012 (1st semester)
Course: Tangible Interaction Design

The idea:
ToeSight is a walking aid for the visually impaired. It is also a means to experience the world in a different (abet, perhaps bizarre) way… The idea behind ToeSight is to create a wearable device that allows the user to sense obstacles in front of them, such as a wall, a moving person, or a tripping hazard such as an elevated bit of sidewalk – all without the use of vision.

Project background and Plan:
I have been working on this project for another class, so there is a bit of background to it already. It started out initially as a curiosity that stemmed from my habit of walking around new places blindfolded. Experiencing the environment without vision has always intrigued me because it forces the individual to focus more on the acoustical environment rather than the visual one. In addition, the experience also brings out the more subtle, tactile things in our everyday world. With that said, the project started out with me wondering what it would be like to feel the world through one’s toes. Odd, true, but we don’t think of our toes much, especially as sensory devices. Most of our “sensors” are located on our heads, so what would it be like to “see” through our toes?

Initially the project started out as a shoe with whiskers that sensed obstacles in the environment through physical contact. When an object pushed against a whisker it triggered a push switch which in turn set off an alarm. It was very simple, but also very limited.

I wanted to be able to sense objects in the environment without physically having to touch them.

With that in mind, the next step for this project is to use an ultrasound/ping sensor and five vibration/pager motors. The idea is to take the range information from the ultrasound sensor and translate it into a physical sensation on the toes with the use of vibration motors. Each toe would be linked to a vibration motor allowing the user to “sense” distant objects before they physically encounter them.

As I make more prototypes and the idea evolves, I will probably have more to add to this. For now, however, this is where I am right now and what I am planning on doing.

Walking Studies
I studied walking and the motion of the foot mainly through the work of Eadweard Muybridge. Muybridge is famous for his photographic studies of motion in humans and animals. I’ve looked into walking because for my project I need to devise a way to attach something to the foot that does not impede its natural motion.