SpiderSense: a Suit That Gives Man a ‘Spider Sense’
Mert Bal posted on March 01, 2013 |
“My spider sense is tingling!” Thanks to Peter Parker, we all know that means impending danger.
Inspired by Spider Man’s famous 6th sense, students at the University of Illinois have designed a suit that senses the near environment and informs the wearer of surrouding objects by gently pushing on his skin. The suit is called the “SpiderSense” and aims to give environmental feedback without sight.

The suit uses 11 sensor modules to cover a 360-degree range around the wearer. Each sensor module houses an ultrasonic range finder and a servo motor. The sensor modules scan the environment for obstacles and alert the wearer to them by exerting pressure to the skin via the servo motor's arm. The amount of pressure is proportional with the distance from the object detected. This means that the Spidey outfit would press harder if the object is closer. The sensor modules are hard wired via 10-pin ribbon cables to a central control station called the Controller Box. The Controller Box contains the power source, the electronics and an Arduino Mega board as the main logic controller of the system. Victor Mateevitsi, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois' Electronic Visualization Laboratory in Chicago designed the suit with his friends. The suit with all the ribbon cables hanging around is not as appealing as a superhero suit, but Mateevitsi that could all change in a future version that would replace the cables with wireless Bluetooth connections. That would add a few bucks to the current cost of around $500 per suit.

In order to prove the usefulness of the SpiderSense, Mateevitsi and his friends conducted a number of tests. One of the tests was about detecting threats by potential attackers approaching the blindfolded suit user from various directions. During the test, the user wearing the suit was instructed to show his reaction by throwing ninja stars made from cardboard in the direction he felt the threats were coming from. As a result, the suited user was able to identify the direction of the attacker and successfully hit him with the ninja star 95 percent of the time. More than preventing attackers, there could be many other useful applications of a suit like this. SpiderSense could have a great potential for use where your eyes can’t see or ears can’t hear.

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