Hackathon: PAL – Proximity Alert Locator

Yesterday, I had just got back from campus and was just enjoying a coffee before I got down to work when I got a message from a friend:


“…come and build stuff…”

There was an event on campus called “Make Cool ShMIT – again!”, where they provide a bunch of components and (more importantly) pizza, and you build something in teams for 2 hours. I decided that work could wait and hopped on the bus to campus.

When I arrived, a couple of my friends were part of a team of 7 people sat around brainstorming what to build, so I joined them. We eventually settled on my idea of making a pair of glasses for visually impaired people that would alert the wearer when they were approaching an object.

Being the only technical people on the team, myself and my two friends worked on the electronics while the others worked on mounting the hardware on a pair of Google Cardboard glasses.

It wasn’t exactly technically difficult – we simply plugged two SR04 ultrasonic sensors and two buzzers into an Arduino Uno and connected a 9V battery. The code was completed in about 45 minutes (including installing the Arduino IDE) and only took 2 or 3 revisions. The hardest part was the fiddly wiring in the short time we had, and the fact that there was no tape or glue so everything was held together with wire, stickers and coat-hangers.


IMG_20160509_194933.jpgAnyway this was the result (blurry photos due to lack of time!).

It has two ultrasonic range sensors and two buzzers, the idea being that if you approach an object on your left side, then the left-hand buzzer beeps (the closer the object, the faster the beeping) and vice-versa.

It worked pretty well, and I think it actually has reasonable real-world applicability (not only for the visually impaired, but also for people playing virtual reality games). Nevertheless, first place went to a team with a more “fun” idea to do with a flashy art installation, but we came second and won a small quadcopter. Plus we got fed and got to take home most of the components so I’m not complaining.

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