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Imagine all the time you’ve wasted searching for your keys as your rush out the door. Sure there’s those beeper things you can attach to them to find it with your phone, as long as you know where your phone that is. But a new advances in vibrotactile technology may help give us clues to finding our lost items faster. Designers from the Helsinki Institute of Information Technology Aalto University, the University of Helsinki, and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics have created vibrating gloves that work in conjunction with a Kinect to locate objects. Sorta like playing Hot & Cold, the gloves nudge helps you get closer to what you’re looking for.

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The designers in Helsinki have been researching how vibrotactile technology can aid people in the search of items. The gloves have small vibrators on the back that work in conjunction with a motion sensing Kinect system. For their study, the designers asked a group of people to find a ‘B’ in a field of ‘P’s’ on a canvas. Some people were wearing the gloves and others were not. At first, everyone was able to locate the ‘B’ right away, but as the trials progressed, more ‘P’s’ were added and it became more difficult to locate the desired letter. Those who were wearing the gloves received vibrations which nudged them in the direction to look. Results showed that those who wore the gloves found the ‘B’ much faster than those who were using eyesight alone.

The main researcher, Ville Lehtinen of HIIT, explains “the advantage of steering a hand with tactile cues is that the user can easily interpret them in relation to the current field of view where the visual search is operating. This provides a very intuitive experience, like the hand being ‘pulled’ toward the target.”

While maybe the system isn’t the most ideal for finding your keys inside your messy house, the technology could reasonably be used for other applications. Say you’re in a huge warehouse, library or grocery store looking for one item – a system like this could be used to locate the item much faster. Rather than wandering around isles searching for it, you tell a computer what you’re looking for and the gloves nudge you in the right direction, essentially telling you when you’re getting “hot”.

+ University of Helsinki

[Via Technology Review]