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3D-Printed, Robotic, Navigation Device Transforms to Lead the Blind (VIDEO)

First Posted: Sep 09, 2015 03:30 PM EDT

What happens when you combine mechanical engineering with navigation? Then you get a new navigation device. Scientists have created a cube-like device that can guide you through rooms and possibly even down streets without the use of your eyes.

The cube-like device has the ability to shapeshift. Created with 3D printing technology, the cubes move depending on which direction you should head. More specifically, the top half of the cub twists and turns to direct users toward their next destination.

This device wasn't just tested in a lab, though. Researchers tested it in an old church. Volunteers were given cubes and wore large suits, which tracked their movements. Each volunteer was able to travel quickly and efficiently to each destination, walking only .3 meters less per second than average.

"That implies that they were pretty confident as they were moving around," said Adam Spiers, the Yale University engineer behind the project. "They only slowed down a little bit, despite being guided through an unknown dark space with wholly unfamiliar technology."

The beauty behind the device, called Animotus, is that it's designed to communicate unobtrusively. Many other haptics-based devices rely on vibration, which can become annoying. Others rely on audio cues, which can be even more distracting. This device, though, relies on a person's sense of touch as it transforms in a person's hand.

"The simple idea is that when you've arrived at your target destination, it becomes a little cube again," said Spiers.

In theory, the Animotus could be hooked up to a GPS and be used to navigate a city. More specifically, it could be a huge boon to those who are blind. Simply by holding the object, a person can navigate a location easily and quickly.

If you want to see the Animotus in action, you can check out the video below, courtesy of Yale and YouTube.

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