A Wearable Mapmaking Device To Create An Image Of Where You Walk

This device beams a real-time map of wherever the wearer walks, which would allow emergency workers to get a much clearer understanding of the buildings they go in to save people’s lives.

A few weeks ago, a student walked around the hallways of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratories wearing what looked like an oversized tourist camera strapped to his chest.


Built into the device is a riot of sensors: accelerometers, barometers, gyroscopes, and a laser “rangefinder” that’s capable of a 270-degree pan of the room (there’s also a camera, to be fair). Together, they mapped the student’s surroundings as he walked, and transmitted the images to a nearby conference room. Inside, his colleagues saw their software assemble a real-time map of the hallways they walked through every day.

The goal in building this insta-map-maker, researcher Maurice Fallon explains in a video, was to create a device that someone like a fire fighter would use in exploring a new area in an emergency situation. As the person walked around on the ground, the sensor would allow support teams off site to share a view of the building.

With a clicker, the wearer can mark out places on the map as especially interesting, or sepecially dangerous. Fallon says in future versions, the wearer will be able to add voice message annotations at locations.

The device was built to be strapped on to robots, with even walking (or rolling) gaits, and was adapted to suit human beings whose steps are not as constant. Accelerometers track how fast the wearer is walking, and barometers track how high the device and wearer are–so that one floor is not confused with the one above or below it.