MIT lab’s smart boots could keep astronauts on their feet

21 days ago

If youve ever worn a spacesuit during a moonwalk or EVA, and I know a lot of you have, you were probably frustrated by how difficult it was to move around both with the restrictions of the suit itself and the limitations on what you can see and feeling. Researchers at MITs Man Vehicle Lab want to construct things easier with boots and other wearables that give the user haptic feedback alerting them of obstacles they might not see.

Its a serious consideration when youre on a mission where every second counts; we can all have a laugh now ensure footage of cosmonauts biffing it into moon dust, but if that uses up valuable breathable air or takes place during a time-sensitive operation like a rescue, its not so funny any more.

Thats why Professor Leia Stirling and grad students at MIT are looking into alternative ways to keep astronauts informed of whats around them so they can not just avoid stumbles, but induce informed decisions.

Theres a lot of different questions that were asking within the lab to help with different decisions that need to be made, Stirling told TechCrunch. This particular project looked at how can we potentially help someone navigate their environment and avoid obstacles at the same time?

The solution is boots with built-in range-finding sensors that usehaptic feedback( vibrations) to tell the user how close they are to an unseen moon stone or antenna. They start slow, and speed up as the obstacle gets closer, a little bit like the proximity alert some cars have when youre backing into a parking spot.( Or, it passed to me, like Jaws .)