In the not too distant future, you may get instructions from you clothing on navigating your surroundings. A wearable device creating vibrations on the skin, and linked to a GPS, could aid the visual and hearing impaired as well as free drivers from having to view maps.
A senior research scientist at MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering and a designer of wearable tactile displays, Lynette Jones, has created an array that accurately tracks vibrations through skin in three dimensions. The array contains miniature accelerometers and pancake motors - a type of vibrating motor which is currently used in cellphones.
Figuring out the best way to disperse the vibrations is a bit tricky as people are much more sensitive to vibrations on some parts of the body, such as the palm of the hand, than somewhere like the forearm. This means that depending upon where the vibrations are created, there would need to be optimal patters of vibrations to best communicate information to the wearer.
Jones stated there are many potential applications for these types of tactile displays, such as aiding drivers or joggers, directing firefighters through building or helping emergency workers navigate through a disaster site.