Buru-Navi3When it comes to user interfaces for devices, there’s not a lot new under the sun. We have indicators that can blink or shine a light, displays that can show text or pictures, and components that can vibrate or provide haptic feedback. But there is not a good way to provide directional information. That’s why a new device called the Buru-Navi3 is so fascinating; it can push or pull you in a direction.

Now, if you think about it, there’s no way that a handheld device can actually push or pull you. It doesn’t have any anchor to pull or push against. That’s what’s so clever about this device that was created by researchers from NTT Communication Science Laboratories. The device actually has a tiny weight that moves back and forth, enclosed in its housing. If it moved back and forth at the same rate, it would simply feel like a vibration. However, the weight is accelerated asymmetrically; it moves faster in one direction, and then moves back in the other direction more slowly. The combined motion creates the illusion that the device is pushing or pulling your hand.

This has all sorts of implications for wearable Health Tech devices. For example, a person with limited vision could have such a system built into a cane, which in turn could communicate with a personal navigation system. The cane could actually direct the person’s hand at intersections to indicate when to make a turn. It also could help elderly users locate a missing item, such as a smartphone or other device. This will add one more user feedback component to the wearable device designer’s toolkit.