Haptic Vest and Haptic Toolkit

[Main Project Page] | [Haptic Vest 1] | [Haptic Vest 2]



Haptic Vest is a vest that enables vision-impaired users to experience their surroundings by vibratory actuations on the belly. A person can feel a depth image of what is in front of them. An Asus Xtion depth camera mounted on the chest captures the area in front of a person. This is then translated into PWM values to control an array of vibration motors. Each vibration motor represents a pixel of the downscaled image, and the intensity of the vibration displays how far away on object at this position is. This project was formerly called OpenVNAVI and was developed by David Sanchez. It was later renamed to VibroVision and then to HaptiVest.



(Image credits: BMBF/Hans-Joachim Rickel (left), RWTH Lehrstuhl Medieninformatik/Jan Thar (right))
  • Jun 13, 2017: Our Haptic Vest 2.0, a wearable vest that renders depth images from a front-facing camera onto the wearer's torso using an array of vibration motors, enabling people with vision impairments to avoid obstacles while walking, was featured in a dedicated TV report in WDR Lokalzeit Aachen today. The report (in German) starts at 14'50" into the program (local cached copy).


  • Haptic Vest 1.0: As a first step, we made the vest more reliable for demonstrations and developed a toolkit that allows makers to easily rebuild the vest themselves. (instructions on instructables) (layout and schematics) (project page)
  • Haptic Vest 2.0: Next generation of Haptic Vest. (layouts and schematics) (project page)
  • HaptiCam: Wrist/handworn guidance system for finding doors, which can be alos used as Braille display
  • For adapting vibration feedback depending on touch areas on non-wearables like a HapticSeat, a textile Multitouchpad was developed and tested, based on the previous work on the Intuitex-project.
  • Several Approaches for 3D-design of the underlying base of the HapticSystem: VR-Skulpting (Dimitri Zimmermann), BadgeMaker, a simplified CNC mill for milling badges (Moritz Messerschmidt) and finally continued work on CutCAD as a laser cutter design tool.
  • Extending sensoric input with clip-on modules: We also develop a more general toolkit for using multiple sorts of sensors and actuators called YAWN (WiP), with an alternative system, especially for education purposes in mind and localisation option by Timm Zimmermanns Thesis.

Community Results (Add On)

  • SchnorchelNavi (WIP): Side project for haptic navigation systems, which are already in development for visual impaired people onshore (https://hackaday.io/project/27761-snorkelnavi). Within a bachelors theses (https://hci.rwth-aachen.de/publications/schmidt2018a.pdf) we compared different feedback types, which are later combined with GPS and compass on the snorkle. This sensoric can be also used e.g. for an art project of the german technical museum in Berlin.
    Development state: https://github.com/salkinium/navimet
  • HapticGames: Good games are also an issue for visual impaired people, here we tried to develop some easily DIY approaches (https://hci.rwth-aachen.de/publications/thar2018c.pdf, https://hci.rwth-aachen.de/publications/thar2018b.pdf). Rebuild instructions can be found here: https://hackaday.io/project/165949hapticgames .
    • BrailleMemory: Memory game with pairs of black and Braille letters. Within the 3D printed cards is an RFID tag, which allows speaking out the letter.
    • Construction game: Translating game cards of to-build-towers into haptic senseable objects like reliefs or sculptures
    • HapticKniffel: 3D-printed Yahtzee score card, using magnets for keeping track of the score.
    • HaptiPong: Using the HaptiVision belt as a display for playing pong, controlling the slider with a linear ressitor and adding an LED display for the second player
  • Other Aids: Small ideas for helping people, based on suggestions from people with impairment.
    • BigButtons: A paraplectic wheelchair driver controlls his chair with a half-ring of Buttons behinf his heads. They need to be big, react on slight touch and be reliable. Commercial ones are expensive and not that reliable, so we tried to develop an own one  (https://www.instructables.com/id/BigButtons/).
    • WiP: HaptiTilt: With a small belt with two vibration motors and a gyroscope the wearer is warned if he's not standing/sitting upright.
    • HaptiGuard: Sideway warning system for people with hearing impairment. Aderick Krispradhana built such a system in his BA (https://hci.rwth-aachen.de/publications/krispradhana2018a.pdf) and tested it on a treadmill, comparing also different seonsr systems beforehand. While feedback works in general, the sensor system, especially while using Time-OF-Flight-Sensors (https://www.instructables.com/id/HaptiGuard-Sideway-Warning-System) is problematic due to reach and arm movement. A camera system with picture analysis would be necessary.
    • WiP: Crutchholder: To get one hand free while using crutches on both hands, here we are developing system for shortly hook in the crutch into the belt or a pocket
    • WiP: OpenLights-Modification: Making a modification of the OpenLights with sideways enlighten acrylic for allowing more complex design to to form and engravings.
  • Education: Besides using the results in the maker community, we also kept education in mind (as part of the cooperation with Infosphere in general, which holds also true for the parts before, e.g. BadgeMaker).
    • Make Light Calliope Book:  Education book for use of the calliope system (https://www.dpunkt.de/calliope).
    • Postcard set Lasercutting, Poster: Basic concept explanations of tool and software usage (https://makercheatsheets).
    • 3D-Printerbuildingworkshops: With more reliable cheap 3D printer building kits on the market, we made 3 3D printer building workshops (for 14 Geeetech i3 pro) to test if this will also work for deploying 3D printer to schools. Feedback on the long run states that mostly the printer of enthusiats are still running, as an entry level printer they still need to much tuning for reliability.
  • Messeexponate: Artistic artwork for fairs and similar






Upcoming Presentations



  • Timm Meiwes. Userfriendly Wearable Networking for Interactive Fashion. Bachelor's Thesis, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, May 2019.
    PDF DocumentBibTeX Entry
  • 2018

  • Dimitri Zimmermann. HaptiSculptVR - Virtual Reality Open Source 3D-Design with Haptic Feedback. Bachelor's Thesis, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, September 2018.
    PDF DocumentBibTeX Entry
  • Christian Schmidt. Comparing feedback techniques for underwater navigation. Masters's Thesis, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, September 2018.
    PDF DocumentBibTeX Entry
  • Aderick Krispradhana. HaptiGuard: Sideway Detection Armband for Hearing-Impaired People. Masters's Thesis, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, September 2018.
    PDF DocumentBibTeX Entry
  • Jan Thar, Sophy Stoenner and Jan Borchers. HapticPong: Low Resolution Games for Visual Impaired.  In Proceedings of the 2018 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play Companion Extended Abstracts, CHIPlay '18, pages 133–136, ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2018.
    HomepagePDF DocumentBibTeX Entry
  • Jan Thar, Sophy Stoenner and Jan Borchers. HaptiGames - Personally Fabricated for Visual Impaired.  In Proceedings of the 2018 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play Companion Extended Abstracts, CHIPlay '18, pages 137–141, ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2018.
    HomepagePDF DocumentBibTeX Entry
  • Jan Thar, Sophy Stoenner, Florian Heller and Jan Borchers. YAWN: Yet Another Wearable Toolkit.  In Proceedings of the 2018 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers, ISWC '18, pages 232–233, ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2018.
    HomepagePDF DocumentBibTeX Entry
  • Florian Heller, Jan Thar, Dennis Lewandowski, Mirko Hartmann, Pierre Schoonbrood, Sophy Stoenner, Simon Voelker and Jan Borchers. CutCAD - An Open-source Tool to Design 3D Objects in 2D.  In DIS '18: Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, DIS '18, ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2018.
    MoviePDF DocumentBibTeX Entry
  • 2017

  • Moritz Messerschmidt. Badge Maker Developing an Easy-to-use System to Design and Build Illuminated Acrylic Name Tags for Children. Bachelor's Thesis, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, April 2017.
    PDF DocumentBibTeX Entry
  • Jan Thar, Florian Heller, Sophy Stoenner and Jan Borchers. HapticToolkit: Easily Integrate and Control Vibration Motor Arrays for Wearables.  In ISWC '17: Proceedings of the 2017 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers, pages 249–253,September 2017.
    PDF DocumentBibTeX Entry
  • Nadine Bergner, Patrick Franken, Julia Kleeberger, Thiemo Leonhardt, Mario Lukas, Mario Pesch, Natalia Prost, Jan Thar and Lina Wassong. Das Calliope-Buch: Spannende Bastelprojekte mit dem Calliope-Mini-Board. dpunkt,  Book, July 2017.
    BibTeX Entry
  • Max Jodl. Haptic sense - Evaluating the reliability and perception of vibration motor arrays on the human body. Bachelor's Thesis, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, March 2017.
    PDF DocumentBibTeX Entry
  • 2016

  • Philipp Wacker, Chat Wacharamanotham, Daniel Spelmezan, Jan Thar, David A. Sánchez, René Bohne and Jan Borchers. VibroVision: An On-Body Tactile Image Guide for the Blind.  In Extended Abstracts of the CHI'16 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pages 3788–3791, ACM, New York, NY, USA, May 2016.
    HomepagePDF DocumentBibTeX Entry


Prof. Jan Borchers: Project Manager
Dr. Simon Voelker: Project Manager

Research Assistants

Jan Thar: Project Lead (main contact person)
Sophy Stönner - Design & Textiles

HiWis & Supportgroup

Moritz Messerschmidt - BadgeMaker, HaptiVision Image Recognition, OpenLabday, Faires

Lukas Ossmann - HaptiGuard, HaptiCam, OpenLabday, Faires

Rene Niewianda - HaptiGames, HaptiTilt, OpenLabday, Faires

Ceyda Avci - OpenLabDay, dorkbot, Faires

Christian Schmidt - Multitouchpad, OpenLabday, Faires

Niklas Hauser - Localisation

Ravi Kanth Kosuru - OpenLabDay, Faires

Support Team Faires: Cihan Aydinoglu, Christopher Werner, Dimitri Zimmermann,...


This project is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of their Open Photonics call (Personal Photonics, 13N14065).



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