These days, we do our hunting and gathering in supermarkets and department stores. While this is much easier than the challenge faced by our ancestors, it is not without its difficulties. Tracking down that one specific item on our list can prove frustrating when faced with aisle after aisle filled with shelf upon shelf of products. Researchers are eying the use of gloves to make the task a lot simpler but, unlike high tech wearable computing devices like Google's Project Glass, these conceptual gloves use a simpler formula: they emit vibrations to tell you where to go.
The gloves designed by researchers at the Helsinki Institute of Information Technology (HIIT) and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics would be made of relatively cheap off-the-shelf components. These include four "vibrotactile actuators," a Kinect sensor, and an ordinary glove. The motors would vibrate to guide your hand in a manner similar to the children's game Hotter/Colder.
This guiding glove isn't a formless idea: it's already been created and tested. A controlled experiment found that subjects who wore the gloves had a big advantage in finding an object. "In search tasks where there were hundreds of candidates but only one correct target," explained Dr. Antti Oulasvirta from Max Planck Institute for Informatics, "users wearing the glove were consistently faster, with up to three times faster performance than without the glove."
It's unknown where the target data would come from, but one can easily imagine such a glove syncing with a smartphone. Simply open the Target (or whatever store you're in) app, search for the product, and let your Bluetooth-connected glove lead the way. The researchers say the technology could also be used to direct motorists to their vehicle in parking lots, hunt down books in libraries or find items in large warehouses.
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