Design Engineering
Showcase

Sensaura

Student
Sophie Horrocks
Course
Global Innovation Design
Supervisor
Jack Mama
Theme
Humanising Technology

How can we navigate the world without sight?

Sensaura is an inclusive design solution to how blind and partially sighted people can navigate the world beyond vision. The wearable device detects, processes and feedbacks environmental information needed for navigation. This allows independent, hands-free travel of indoor and outdoor spaces for blind and partially sighted people.

Its combined sensors translate visual information into a multi-sensory augmented reality experience of spatial audio and tactile feedback. Test subjects have said this experience gave them a feeling of having an “extra sense”. The wearable can work independently or connect to a wider network of beacons in the environment when GPS is unavailable.

Sensaura applies inclusive design principles. This not only offers a human-centred design solution to the 2 million people in the U.K. currently living with sight loss but has the potential to transform hands-free navigation for millions of people worldwide beyond this user group. This has been validated by industry experts across fields of urban planning, future mobility, IOT, neuropsychologists, human-computer interaction and user-experience designers and researchers.

Sensaura, reimagining the language of our senses for an inclusive future.

Process

Global research with blind and partially sighted users was carried out in Tokyo, New York and London. This process identified the global problem faced by this community of how to navigate not only independently, but intuitively.

One user stated that they were “only disabled by the design of our environment”. We might not be able to redesign the entire environment, but more easily, we can design our perception of the environment.

Current assistive technologies for navigation have focussed on the development of technologies to detect and process visual information from the environment. Sensaura takes a different approach by starting with the ideal goal of what a fully inclusive and accessible future would be and working backwards from that; placing the human user at the heart of its process to ensure a desirable and sustainable solution.

Engaging blind and partially sighted users throughout the design process verified project relevance. This included a focus group run in partnership with the Thomas Pocklington Trust. Additionally, deep research into neuropsychology theories of sensory perception and sensing technologies has ensured rigour. This was enhanced by consultations from the Next Generation Neural Interfaces Lab at Imperial.

Outcomes

Sensaura’s wearable device is designed to enhance hands-free use. It combines camera and radar sensors to detect visual information in the environment. This enables object identification and lower body detection of obstacles, drops and steps - something no market option currently offers.

This visual information is processed via the user’s phone and then fed-back to the user through audio and haptics. Simple warning cues are communicated through vibration, -more complex information is communicated through audio via bone-conduction headphones.

The prototype of Sensaura’s spatial audio language was developed in partnership with musician Asher Levitas. The soundbites are designed so they’re clearly distinct from the natural environment. Users can then experience the soundbites spatially, as an audio augmented reality, with sounds giving directional cues for navigation and object locations.This experience enhances the natural capabilities of human hearing. One user said it “felt like having an extra sense”.

To overcome challenges of navigating indoors/ underground - where GPS is unavailable - Sensaura can connect to beacons in the environment, working comparably to hearing aid loops. This creates a seamless transition between outdoor and indoor spaces.

CAD models developed collaboratively with Math Whittaker.

Sensaura is an ongoing project – email [email protected] for further enquiries.

 — Sensaura
Sensuara wearable device.

Comments

What an amazing project Sophie!

Triambak Saxena

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