Reason and understanding are the arms of our souls

Game Design – Scrimmage, a Tactical Soccer Game

While waiting for a chance to get out to a lab to test some circuitry (tomorrow) for the directional hearing aid, I decided to act on a thought I have had floating around for a week or two now. I wrote up and drafted some crude graphics for a fun (I think) hex-based tactical football soccer game.

It is available here to print and play. Give some feedback on this post if you play it, I would like to know what people think. (No, that is not me, or anyone I know, in the picture on the cover).

Using Haptics for Directional Hearing Part 3 – Testing and Setbacks

Sometimes when we have a design that works really well in theory, and then we test it in simulation and it works really well, we decide to take the next step and make one in practice. That is when things tend to go terribly wrong.

I got all of the parts for the Binaural Hearing Assistance Device (B-HAD) today. I was very excited and, after a quick run to the grocery store, set to work on testing the circuit on a bread board. Well, it did not go as planned. After connecting all of the pieces, and finally connecting it to power, I was happy to see the motor buzzing intermittently.

I soon learned it was intermittent because it was shaking its own connection to the breadboard loose…

So after securing that, and it buzzed constantly. I felt like that could not be right, so I started troubleshooting.

I removed the microphone. Still buzzing…

Removed everything but the power leads to the op-amp. Still buzzing…

I do not exactly know what happened, but I feel like that is not what should have gone down. I have sent an email to a gentleman I know much smarter than I in these matters and I am hoping for some feedback to make some real progress. Please, if you have any ideas on what is going on with this circuit, let me know in the comments below.

I will let you all know how that turns out.

Why Haptics?

Haptics is defined as “the science of applying tactile sensation to computer applications in order to enable users to receive feedback in the form of felt sensations” by Encarta, and more generally in the world of Psychology as the study of the sense of touch or other tactile sensations. Haptics is an interesting field to me, it offers a world of opportunity for wearable, or temporary augmentations. There’s a whole subculture of transhumanists out there, grinders, for whom I have immense respect. They work with actually implanting devices within themselves and, in extreme cases, are working on gene bombardment therapies that will allow them to engage in self-induced macroevolution through the use of programmed retroviruses. Although, in practice, I find myself afraid to move to that fringe.

Call it cowardice, but I can not imagine what I would do if an implant went bad and I went blind, deaf, or otherwise unable to perform usual tasks. In lieu of the fearlessness needed to breach into the grinder territory, I want to use Haptics and other similar somatic stimuli coordinated with wearables to approximate the same results. I may not be able to have a magnet put into my finger to let me feel magnetic fields, but with a hall effect sensor, an op-amp, and a vibration motor, I can approximate the same thing. I may not be able to have super senses or strength, but I am confident that exoskeletons and somatic devices will be able to give the same effects; the only difference is that these changes are removable.

I want to evolve and transcend, and I want to use technology to do it, but I’m not sure I’m willing to cut myself up to do it just yet. I will stick with external augmentations for now.

Using Haptics for Directional Hearing – Part 2: Schematic

The first step to take in this project is to build and test the circuitry to make sure the concept will actually work as intended. I developed this schematic over the course of a few days. The parts list and pricing are all from SparkFun.

Directional Hearing Aid Schematic

Directional Hearing Aid Schematic

The LM358 should amplify the sound enough to allow for the vibration motors to spin when a sound is heard. Given the analog nature of the circuit, the vibration of the motor should be directly proportional to the sound being picked up by the microphone. The total cost of the project, for setup will be about 40 USD (probably closer to 45 USD after shipping), which will include capacitors and resistors for 2 or 3 of these items, and a breadboard for testing. It is a personal pet peeve when people write parts lists assuming you have boatloads of capacitors, resistors, and breadboards laying around. This price list includes everything you need, minus the battery.

Component Part # Price per Unit Quantity Total
Microphone COM-08635 0.95 2 1.9
Vibration Motor ROB-08449 4.95 2 9.9
LM358 Op-Amp COM-09456 0.95 1 0.95
Breadboard PRT-00112 9.95 1 9.95
2 Pin Connectors PRT-10501 0.5 4 2
9V Battery Clip PRT-10512 2.95 1 2.95
Barrel Adapter PRT-10811 0.95 1 0.95
1k Ohm Resistor COM-13760 0.95 1 0.95
10K Ohm Resistor COM-11508 0.95 1 0.95
Capacitor Kit KIT-13698 6.95 1 6.95

Using Haptics for Directional Hearing – Part 1: Concept

My wife is deaf in one ear; I mean almost completely. The only things she can hear in that ear would make normal people (or her other ear) go deaf. This has posed a problem on more than one occasion with our two kids. They will call out to her and it will take her a couple tries to figure out which room they are in. It is also interesting to call out to her in a store and watch her check every direction until she can see where I am calling from.

I was wondering if there was some way to help her work out directional hearing with a wearable device. A while back I was turned onto an anklet that would let you know which direction you were facing. It turns out that the human body will learn to filter out common sensations, such as vibration, over time while still intuitively sensing the changes in said vibration (a phenomenon well known in haptic devices). With this in mind I begun designing a device that will use a pair of microphone earrings to pass audio through a pair of op-amps that will power a pair of vibration motors, one on each arm in an armband worn under the clothes. This will allow, I hope, my wife to be able to determine the direction of sound. A schematic and parts list is forth-coming and a prototype will follow soon after.

Keep tuned-in for updates.