created by german designer jakob kilian, ‘unfolding space’ is a wearable sensory substitution device for the visually impaired. built into a glove, the prototype allows users to ‘see’ where they are walking by a map of vibrations. this is achieved using a depth camera that generates a 3D picture of the wearer’s surroundings and 9 motors that haptically project the generated image onto the back of the user’s hand as a pattern of vibrations.

unfolding space by jakob kilian lets the visually impaired see with their hands designboom

all images courtesy of jakob kilian (also main video)

 

 

the main idea behind the project is to afford a greater level of autonomy to those with visual impairments or total blindness. furthermore, kilian intends that the device will eventually replace the traditional white cane. with ‘unfolding space’, the wearer can interactively explore their surroundings with this new depth perception to locate and avoid obstacles and navigate themselves in unfamiliar environments. the location of a vibration conveys an object’s relative position in space, while the strength of the vibration represents its distance.

unfolding space by jakob kilian lets the visually impaired see with their hands designboom

a blindfolded person testing the device

 

 

kilian’s technology is based on his bachelor’s thesis research into sensory substitution: a phenomenon by which the function of one missing or dysfunctional sense is replaced – or substituted – by stimulating another. he wrote the theoretical paper whilst studying integrated design at köln international school of design in germany and the whole project is available open source to designers and commercial developers.

unfolding space by jakob kilian lets the visually impaired see with their hands designboom

the device intend to offer greater autonomy to those with visual impairments

 

 

through a rapid prototyping approach, kilian has been able to develop and manufacture the device for less than €500, which is more affordable than most sensory substitution devices currently available. ‘unfolding space’ won the toby e. rodes award at the kölner design preis in 2018, and earned special recognition at the lucky strike junior designer award 2018. it also won the golden pin concept design award 2019 design mark and could win a share of the $39,000 best design prize in december 2019.

unfolding space by jakob kilian lets the visually impaired see with their hands designboom

the user uses the vibrations to cross the tracks

unfolding space by jakob kilian lets the visually impaired see with their hands designboom

kilian has been able to develop and manufacture the device for less than €500

unfolding space by jakob kilian lets the visually impaired see with their hands designboom

close up view of the wearable device

unfolding space by jakob kilian lets the visually impaired see with their hands designboom

the vibration motors are positioned over the glove

unfolding space by jakob kilian lets the visually impaired see with their hands designboom

the prototype worn by a user

unfolding space by jakob kilian lets the visually impaired see with their hands designboom

users can ‘see’ their surroundings

unfolding space by jakob kilian lets the visually impaired see with their hands designboom

the vibrations are mapped onto the back of the wearer’s hand

unfolding space by jakob kilian lets the visually impaired see with their hands designboom

the 3D depth camera

unfolding space by jakob kilian lets the visually impaired see with their hands designboom

an early version of the working prototype

 

 

project info:

 

project name: ‘unfolding space’

design: jakob kilian

 

designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

 

edited by: lynne myers | designboom