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Tactile Sight Inc., a University of Waterloo spinoff company, provides sensory substitution systems that map location and object sensing technologies & per- cepts into haptics (touch). Our current product offering is the Tactile ‘navigation’ Belt™, a wearable belt that conveys location sensed a GPS system in tactile form. It is like Google maps without your eyes; you feel nudges around your waist to direct you to your des- tination. The Tactile Belt helps people navigate when they have limitations or are overloaded with sensory or cognitive information.
The Tactile navigation Belt is initially targeted as an Assistive navigation device for people that are blind or people who suffer from Alzheimer’s. Its main ad- vantages over existing products is that the Tactile Belt minimizes cognitive engagement and potential dis- traction with the navigation task. Existing aids for people who are blind require the person to be cogni- tively engaged. This creates a safety risk. Existing aids for people with Alzheimer’s only convey location information to a caregiver & provide no guidance to the user.
The Tactile Belt provides independence, freedom and an improvement in the quality of life for people who are blind and people who suffer from Alzheimer’s. Besides the Assistive Device marketplace, other ap- plication markets include first responders, military and recreational use.
John Zelek is Associate Professor (in Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo), with expertise in the area of intelligent Mechatronic control systems that interface with humans; specifically, the areas are (1) wearable sensory substitution and assistive devices; (2) probabilistic visual and tactile perception; (3) wearable haptic devices including their design, synthesis and analysis; and (4) human-robot interaction. He was awarded the best paper award at the 2007 Iinternational IEEE/IAPRS Computer and Robot Vision conference. He was awarded a 2006 & 2008 Distinguished Performance Award from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Waterloo. He was also awarded the 2004 Young Investigator Award by the Canadian Image Processing & Pattern Recognition society for his work in robotic vision. He is also the CTO for Tactile Sight Inc.