oblu: A Shoe-Mounted Indoor Positioning System

Satellite-based positioning systems like GPS work great if you have a clear line of sight to the sky, but as noted on this device’s Tindie…

Satellite-based positioning systems like GPS work great if you have a clear line of sight to the sky, but as noted on this device’s Tindie listing, “We spend nearly 70% of our time indoors.” Whether or not this is a good thing generally is debatable, but once you’re underneath a canopy, your little friend that guides you around outdoors suddenly becomes quite useless.

Hopefully you can find your way around your house or the local mall using “traditional” methods, but this can cause navigation issues for those tasked with navigating a thick urban jungle — or an actual jungle, for that matter — where the sky is obscured. To help solve this issue, oblu is a shoe-mounted pedestrian dead reckoning (PDR) system that can tell your change in direction and location after each step, based on measurements taken with four onboard 6-axis inertial measurement units (IMUs). It’s available as a configurable development platform, and can report position data to a smartphone via its onboard Bluetooth module.

Applications for this device include taking surveys of areas with spotty GPS coverage, assistive robotics, and gaming. The device can also be used to help rolling robots navigate by breaking their paths into a regular series of starts and stops. Headings are corrected after each segment, similar to a human’s stride, allowing these ‘bots to compensate for uneven surfaces or mechanical irregularities.

[h/t Tindie on Twitter]

Jeremy S. Cook
Engineer, maker of random contraptions, love learning about tech. Write for various publications, including Hackster!
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