While navigation apps may be great for finding your way around strange places, they do require you to hold onto your smartphone and periodically check its screen – not an ideal setup if both your hands are occupied, or if you simply don't wish to look like a tourist. Smartwatches offer one way around this, but German startup feelSpace has developed a navigation belt that also allows for hands-free, haptic-based navigation. Worn over or under the clothes, it guides you by buzzing your waist via a series of built-in actuators.
The feelSpace belt springs from a research project that began in 2005 at the University of Osnabrück. That study was aimed at determining if human test subjects could develop a sense of which way was north – to that end, they were first equipped with belts that continuously indicated the direction of true north, by vibrating on that side.
In the commercial version of the belt, users can still opt to use it in a Compass mode, in which it simply lets them know which way north is. It doesn't need to be paired with a smartphone for this function to work.
Utilizing the more practical Routing mode, users start by indicating their destination on an accompanying iOS or Android app. The Bluetooth-connected belt takes it from there, telling them which way to walk (or cycle, etc) by vibrating on the front or at various points to the left or right. A special vibrational pattern lets them know when they've reached the target – this could be particularly useful for visually-impaired users.
Finally, for people who are more interested in exploring than simply going from A to B, there's the Beeline mode. This lets users know what direction their eventual destination is in, but doesn't bother with providing turn-by-turn navigational cues.
The device weighs around 450 g (1 lb), and should be good for a full day of use on one charge of its battery.
Although the consumer version of the belt was first revealed last year, feelSpace has just launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund its production. If you want one, be prepared to pledge US$899. Delivery is scheduled for December, assuming all goes as planned. Hopefully the folks at feelSpace will do better than the designers of the similar Triposo navigational belt, which didn't meet its crowdfunding goal.
More information is available in the following pitch video.