Through our smart phones we can send text messages, images, videos and even voice recordings, but what if we could send tactile messages as well? One Bahraini design engineer is trying to do just that.
As a finalist on Qatar's " Stars of Science " reality TV show, Thieab Al Dossary has worked to develop his tactile communicating bracelet, the " Feelix ." The unique device fits around the users forearm and receives signals via smartphones.
“You’ve got eight tactiles pads. Each pad sends a localized current to your forearm. The 8 pads are arranged in a four by two sequence, so you have two sets of four," Al Dossary explains.
“Each pad can send a pulse a thousand times a second and at any length of time.”
“Combining that with the eight pads together, each one being able to do that, you can all of a sudden create multiple different patterns that you can distinguish. You can distinguish feeling pad one, or pad two, or three.”
The unique device can send a nearly infinite range of patterns and sensations. Dossary explains that it can easily send a zig-zag pattern or a circular pattern. It also can create the sensation that the forearm is being rubbed, along with all manner of different sensations and signals.
“One person can create a pattern by touching their screen, creating a tactile message. So they can save it and send it.”
But what uses does this product actually have? For starters, its intended to be open-source for app designers, which means that the applications are endless.
“It is an open platform. So can anyone can create an application to sink with this,” Dossary said.
Already two apps have been developed to work with the product. One app is a pattern designer that allows users to create and trigger patterns and the other is "a music equalizer that enables a user to feel sensations corresponding with the music they are listening to."
Possible other applications for the new device include uses in fitness to notify users about speed or timing, for directions, video game physical feedback, social media notifications, incoming messages or other phone notifications and specific applications for the visually impaired or the hard of hearing.
Dossary credits his path as an inventor to his creativity back in high school. Moving from Saudi Arabia to England at the age of 13, he focused on art, literature and music while a high school student. After graduation, he turned to engineering, doing an extra "top-up" year of math and science before enrolling in university where he studied design engineering.
The road to the Feelix started from his final year university project, which was a hand-held palm device to aid the visually impaired. The device could communicate text and directions to the palm and could also direct individuals from place to place. That’s where things started to come together for him as an inventor.
After working for several years, Dossary came back to his invention, getting a patent and deciding to try out for "Stars of Science." Although the judges were impressed with his product and research, they felt the product was far too developed to compete on the show and Dossary was rejected. However, they encouraged him to submit a less-developed concept.
Dossary had already begun thinking about the wrist area, as his employer had encouraged him to do. So, the next day, he went back to the "Stars of Science" judges and presented the idea for the Feelix. They quickly accepted the concept, allowing him to develop a working prototype, which ended up on the forearm instead of the wrist.
But is it easy to distinguish different patterns from the Feelix? Dossary explained, “I’ve done a lot of testing on it, the people that it has been tested on ... were able to determine one pad from another.” When they were wrong, the confusion was minor.
“You can feel the individual pulses and where they are. But you can also distinguish when they are creating patterns and the sensations they are creating.”
However, there is one problem with Dossary's prototype and it doesn't have anything to do with coding.
"My prototype is hard plastic, it doesn’t always fit tightly to the forearm. I have since made a rubber version so the exterior is now made of rubber, which is a lot more flexible."
In order to redesign his product and get it off the ground, Dossary recently launched a Zoomaal campaign. With more than two weeks left, the campaign has already received more than 10 percent of its funding goal.
Dossary is hoping to bring his product to a more completed stage soon, "I’m trying to get a product to get on to the market, a more finished product that works.”
He is still unsure exactly where or when he will launch his product but through attending conferences like STEP in Dubai and Collision in Las Vegas, Nevada, he has met a lot of people interested in helping him sell the product once it's ready.
"Personally, I would like to target the U.S. market. I just feel that anything that is a success in the U.S., it is easy to get it out into the rest of the world. Plus my patent is an American one. I do [also] have a patent in the UAE and I am extending that to the UK as well," Dossary said.
Of course, we're just excited to try out the Feelix as soon as its finished.