New 3D printed sensor device lets you control drones with the wave of a hand
Sci Fi?, no its real. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) have developed a new device that lets you control a drone with simple hand gestures. Designed to be easy and intuitive, works through 3D printing and original sensor technology: a wave to the left, and the drove moves to the left; a wave to the right, the drone moves to the right. While a straightforward concept, the development process was far from simple, the sensor is made of piezo-resistive fibers incorporated into a wristband that registers the hand’s movements. The electroconductive piezo-resistive fiber recognizes a change in shape and converts this motion into an electrical signal, which can then be read by a terminal device and interpreted accordingly. In other words, drones and other robotic devices can be moved with basic motions such as the point of a finger, thanks the combination of acceleration, rotation, and orientation sensors with the specialized fiber sensor that enables new commands to control electronic devices.
Whit the 3D printing “ we managed to integrate the sensor structure in non-textile materials," Clemens says. The sensor could now be used in something as structural, yet basic, as a wristwatch. With the help of Swiss companies STBL Medical Research AG and Idezo, Clemens and his team then programmed the sensor to control a drone with specific hand movements.
Currently, the algorithm is being optimized at Bern University of Applied Sciences, with the goal of responding to even simpler gestures. Although the project is still in its infancy, Empa researchers have wasted no time in sussing out potential applications and buyers. "Together with our industry partner STBL Medical Research AG, we are currently discussing a potential industrial implementation with partners from various sectors," Clemens says.