The MapBag: Know Where You Are Through The Power Of Vibration

Every few weeks I pop up out of the New York subway and forget where I am. I’ll start heading east when I wanted to west and north when I wanted to go south. East and west are the worst because it’s a long block before I usually realize I’m going the wrong way and, regardless of all of the potentially cues around me (street numbers, landmarks) I will invariably have to turn around a few times.

Well this bag, really a DIY project, aims to assist us in our travels. The device is sewn into a messenger bag and uses an Arduino board, a GPS chipset, and eight tiny motors. You set a direction or a waypoint and start moving. As you traverse the streetscape, the motors vibrate to tell you where you’re headed, like a sensory compass. After a few days, the creator, Josh, found it became second nature to depend on the vibrations to sense his position in the city.

The microcontroller constantly evaluates the wearer’s current heading and the location of magnetic North, or the relative location of a user-defined waypoint (such as home). The microcontroller informs the wearer of compass information through the vibration motors, basically allowing you to read a compass with your body.

Regardless, I would totally build this thing if I weren’t afraid I’d mess it up and have it lead me into the East River.

Project Page via Make