ROMU: A revolutionary new wearable product for seamless pedestrian navigation
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The ME310 collection is a set of project reports from the ME310 course at Stanford University. Students enrolled in ME310 participate in a product design project over the course of an entire school year in collaboration with another team from a foreign university. ME310 students take on real world design challenges brought forth by corporate partners. Throughout one academic year, student teams prototype and test design concepts and in the end create a full proof-of-concept system that demonstrates their ideas., The ME310 collection is a set of project reports from the ME310 course at Stanford University. Students enrolled in ME310 participate in a product design project over the course of an entire school year in collaboration with another team from a foreign university. ME310 students take on real world design challenges brought forth by corporate partners. Throughout one academic year, student teams prototype and test design concepts and in the end create a full proof-of-concept system that demonstrates their ideas.
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Just as we have traveled to the far reaches of the wearable tech design space in our ME 310 exploration, so too have we realized our own needs to travel the far reaches of the physical world. Be it known or unknown territory, to explore is a human desire that has stood the test of time and been fundamental (and at times detrimental) to the development of modern society. With the technology, infrastructure, and transportation options of today, many people are more mobile than ever, free to wander wherever time and money will allow. In recognizing this need, Team Microsoft also found an ideal design direction for which to build a robust and refined wearable product. Although mobility is at an all time high, both for leisure and professionally, there is still the issue of navigating a little known or totally foreign area. Conveniently, the paper maps of old have been digitized, and even more conveniently, they can now be accessed on-the-go by anyone with a smartphone - which today is over half of all Americans. However, receiving directions by phone is not without complications, especially when on foot. For one, maps apps can only provide user feedback via auditory or visual means. This not only detracts from the experience and pleasure of taking in new scenery during travel, but also puts the user at risk of danger in their surroundings by using up precious bandwidth on two main sensory pathways. In addition, holding an expensive phone out to navigate an unknown area openly signals vulnerability. With this knowledge, gained through social observation, needfinding, and some experimentation, our team designed a wearable that aims to make pedestrian travel safer and more immersive through discreet, yet clear haptic navigation signals. Enter ROMU... The idea behind the product is simple: people can travel more safely, efficiently, and enjoyably if they can pay more attention to the world they’re in. Imagine you travel frequently for pleasure or for your career, but if possible, always opt to go to new and exciting locations. You have a smartphone and can get directions to various attractions, but in many areas you fear being targeted as a tourist and possibly getting your phone stolen. And even if you do choose to navigate by phone - how can you soak in the sights if you are always absorbed in your maps app, looking for the next turn? Instead, you put on your ROMU, plug in your destination to your phone, and go. Vibration signals from the armband provide directional cues to your end location, allowing you to focus on the sights and sounds around you. After all, it’s more about the journey than the destination. To elaborate on the technology, ROMU is a comfortable, arm-mounted wearable product containing an array of vibration motors as well as onboard microcontroller, sensors, and Bluetooth electronics. This hardware package is accompanied by a software counterpart in the form of an Android application. The system goes as follows: 1. ROMU armband is placed around the upper-left arm and adjusted for comfort and orientation, then turned on. 2. The user opens the ROMU app and searches for their device via Bluetooth. 3. Once connected, a destination is searched for and confirmed in the maps view. 4. Once the destination is chosen, a route is drawn and the user may start navigation. 5. During navigation, the phone uses various data services to figure out the best route, including the position of the next best waypoint (turn). 6. This data is used to send periodic commands to the device, the contents of which depend on the bearing and heading of the user. 7. Commands received by the device from the phone are processed by the microcontroller and translated to intuitive patterns and arrays of vibrations produced by the motors. 8. The user interprets these haptic signals and uses them to successfully navigate to the destination! 9. At any point during use, the user may double tap the electronics enclosure on the device to pause navigation, or may pause/quit from the phone. Upon completion of the quarter, ROMU is a functional product and one Team Microsoft is very proud of. EXPE went smoothly and we received lots of good feedback about the project - concerning both what people liked and where we had room for improvement. Overwhelmingly, there was a sense of enjoyment of the concept and experience behind ROMU. Should future work be performed on the project, which is currently being discussed by the Stanford team, there is a desire to fine tune functionality and add several features that were initially considered but then dropped due to time constraints, including: consolidating on-band electronics into a PCB (which was attempted by USTC but did not fit the physical design envelope), reworking the wiring layout, tightening up the navigation algorithms, and adding a social aspect to app functionality.
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- Berberick, Andrew; Hudak, Andrew; Lukens, William; Zhou, Kathryn; Hu, Jingqiu; Li, Shuai; Liu, Yuanlai; Wang, Mu; and Gu, Jiawei. (2014). ROMU: A revolutionary new wearable product for seamless pedestrian navigation. Stanford Digital Repository. Available at: http://purl.stanford.edu/bj652bs1966
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