After a long day at the SCCDL (South Citico Creek Digital Laboratory :P) and a great Turkey Tetrazinni and Raspberry Crumble, we decided to take a stroll to observe some fireflies!!
We merely walked around a hundred yards from base camp. We used flashlights to reach the observation site. However, we had to stand or sit in the dark so that we can observe the amazing flashes of the hundreds of fireflies around us. To be honest, that was a scary moment for me. Standing in the dark, with god knows how many different crawlies all around me inching towards me…whooooaaa!!
While fighting the urge to scream in terror, I focused on the fireflies. Everyone was shuffling around to get a better look at flying mini-bulbs. You would imagine bunch of people with no sense of environment around them trying to shuffle slowly using hands and feet to sense around, bumping into each other and trees around us. Not the most efficient way to go about it, you might say.
There was this thought though, what if one has to hike at night without a light source due to some reason. Using hands and legs to sense the environment, obstacles and even approaching bears at night!!
As we were already using our hands, I conceptualized a wearable product with a ultra-sonic distance sensor which can keep you informed about your surrounding by bouncing off ultra-sonic waves just like echolocation done by bats.
After understanding the dimensions of the sensors and board as well as the idea of keeping your hands free while hiking, I brainstormed for different mounting options along the body.
The first prototype was really simple. It used fabric as the base to support a small platform and attach the reflective straps. The Arduino Theo along with input and output sensors were supported on the platform using threads to tie-down.
The sensor has a range between 2cm – 400cm. The buzzer’s frequency increases as the hiker approaches an object or vice-versa. The emergency light which is a small LED (tested in the field for amount of light) turns on if the hiker is in a hitting distance of an object. For the first prototype we used a safe distance of 10″.
FUTURE DESIGN IMPROVEMENTS:
+ Use of multiple sensors and outputs to give a sense of direction to the hiker.
+ Exploring form factor, to be placed on different body parts
+ Exploring a combination of sensors to enhance efficiency.