Connected Muscles: Control walking direction with your smartphone (VIDEO)

Pedestrian navigation systems require users to perceive, interpret, and react to navigation information. This can tax cognition as navigation information competes with information from the real world.

Researchers at the Human-Computer Interaction group of the Leibniz Universität Hannover propose actuated navigation, a new kind of pedestrian navigation in which the user does not need to attend to the navigation task at all.

An actuation signal is directly sent to the human motor system to influence walking direction. To achieve this goal they stimulate the sartorius muscle using electrical muscle stimulation. The rotation occurs during the swing phase of the leg and can easily be counteracted.

The user therefore stays in control. The researchers discuss the properties of actuated navigation and present a lab study on identifying basic parameters of the technique as well as an outdoor study in a park. The results show that our approach changes a user’s walking direction by about 16°/m on average
and that the system can successfully steer users in a park with crowded areas, distractions, obstacles, and uneven ground.