Vibrobelt Nudges Lost Cyclists Back on the Path

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Are you lost on your bike? Fear not! The Vibrobelt could send you in the right direction. This smart belt will send subtle vibrations to guide bicyclists to their destinations.

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The Vibrobelt was developed by Haska Steltenpohl and Anders Bouwer in the Intelligent Systems Lab at the University of Amsterdam. Their goal was to find a way to gently steer bicyclists to a location so they avoid being dangerously distracted by visual maps, GPS screens or smartphones.

Worn around the waist, the Vibrobelt gives waypoint, distance and endpoint information using directional tactile cues, according to its creators. The belt works by taking information about the route and translating it into unique buzzes that indicate where the bicyclist should go. For example, the vibration for going left is different from the one for going straight.

When the two researchers tested the belt against a GPS screen on a group of 20 volunteers who were taking unfamiliar routes, they found that everyone made it to their destinations just fine. However, the volunteers who used the Vibrobelt were able to navigate more quickly, remembered the route they took and could recall landmarks along it better. Paul Marks, writing for New Scientist, called the Vibrobelt “satnav for your waist.”

Create Your Own Bike Lane, on the Go

Bouwer and Steltenpohl plan to refine their system and their paper about the Vibrobelt was accepted for the International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces, which takes place in Santa Monica next month. Wonder if they considered a smart bicycle seat cover. Although something like that might end up being a bit too, um, distracting.

Credit: Richard Masoner

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