When shoes are equipped with sensors

The Bioengineering students from Rice University are building a device for users who has impaired sensation in the feet which helps them from falling down and acts as support.

As of now the device consists of sensors, tangle of wires, circuits, and motors. The device can be placed right into the shoe of our users which provides the sensible touch and improves the wearer’s motor skills.

Dr. Mehdi Razavi asked students working on the capstone projects in Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen to find a way to help his patients maintain their balance.

The students called themselves as “All the Feels” solved the problem by dividing the foot into four zones. In each zone, the students placed a sensor which helps them to measure the pressure on the foot. Above each sensor they placed a vibrating motor, to provide additional sensation to the user.

The students hope users will learn to use the device and adjust the strides automatically to navigate stairs or uneven terrain.

“You’ll feel exactly where you’re applying pressure,” Wen said. “The amount of vibration is proportional to the amount of pressure: If you apply a lot, you’ll feel a lot; if you apply just a little pressure, you get just a little vibration.”

The sensor combinations under each foot operates with complete independence and are placed based on the areas of the foot that are most important for balance control. “How you respond to the vibrations shouldn’t be a conscious decision, Kehoe added”. “Your nervous system reacts instantaneously”.

“We’ve designed the system so it can be adjusted to the patient’s needs and degree of peripheral neuropathy,” Kehoe said.

The device sensors and motors are placed in the middle of sandals for testing but the students expect that all the elements from the device can be miniaturized including sensors, tangle of wires, circuits, motors, and power supply. So that, users could move them between pairs of shoes.

This device acts as lifesaver for our users as this acts as support and prevents tumble especially for elders and patients with diabetes with sense to touch.

More information can be found at: Rice University.

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