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Sketch Recognition Lab
Director: Dr. Tracy Anne Hammond


Navigation through Touch Alone


Military personnel often have to navigate through hostile and unfamiliar territories in the dead of night. Maintaining situational awareness and stealth is crucial to the warfighter’s survival. It is imperative that warfighters keep their eyes and ears on their surroundings, and their hands on their weapons. Traditional navigational solutions provide sound or visual feedback and/or require touch interaction; all of these interrupt the warfighter’s concentration. SRL’s solution was to develop Haptigo, a haptic feedback vest that provides easily understood navigational instructions as well as information about the environment using only vibration feedback to the warfighter. Activity recognition is used to automatically understand the warfighter’s actions, intentions, and even his or her medical/mental/warfighter state; important information is sent to the troop leader.

Through the support of DARPA, IDA, and TAMU, Hammond and SRL performed interviews with military and government personnel at over fifty different Marine, Army, Navy, and Government bases and facilities over a 12 month period. This was followed by an extensive ethnographic study and testing over a 24 month period with paratroopers under the direction of the Commanding General Lieutenant General Frank Helmick (ret.) at the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg and the TAMU ROTC.

SRL’s investigations have shown that motorcyclists (and the visually impaired) often suffer from similar impediments to maintaining their situational awareness. HaptiMoto allows motorcyclists, who need their eyes, ears, and hands on the road, to receive navigational direction information solely through vibration feedback. Rigorous testing has shown that both warfighters and civilians using the Haptigo or HaptiMoto navigational vest have higher situational awareness and get to their location more quickly and more directly than those using audio (headphone), visual (smartphone, watch, or paper map), or even memorized solutions, whether the warfighter or civilian is on foot or motorcycle.

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