A new vibrating vest, developed in part by the US military, might improve battlefield communications and open the door to a variety of other uses:
The vest is made from black spandex and fastens around a person’s lower torso with Velcro. An array of 16 small vibrating motors is embedded in the back of the vest and connects to a control unit on one side. This unit contains a wireless transceiver linked wirelessly to a controlling computer.
Commands sent from the computer are translated into patterns “displayed” – like Braille-on-the-back – by the vibrating motors. The wearer’s back was chosen to receive messages because it is a relatively large area that is also less likely to sustain damage.
…Eight of the symbols are derived from hand signals already used by the US military. “They communicate things like stop, look left, run, proceed faster or proceed slower,” explains Jones. When four corners of the array vibrate, for example, this means stop. And a vibrating column, moving from one side to the other, means turn left or right.
So, the technology could help with silent military communication, yes, but so much more. As one commenter on Gizmodo notes, Braille was originally developed for the French military before helping the blind to read. Physical therapy? Guidance for the deaf? Maybe, but if Nintendo picks up on this, video games will never be the same.
More from the research page of Dr. Lynette Jones …