Scientists have used Google Glass to teach people Morse code within four hours using a series of vibrations felt near the ear. Participants learned it without paying attention to the signals – they played games while feeling the taps and hearing the corresponding letters.
After those few hours, they were 94 per cent accurate keying a sentence that included every letter of the alphabet and 98 per cent accurate writing codes for every letter.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US decided to use Glass for this study because it has both a built-in speaker and tapper (Glass’s bone-conduction transducer).
In the study, participants played a game while feeling vibration taps between their temple and ear.
The taps represented the dots and dashes of Morse code and passively “taught” users through their tactile senses – even while they were distracted by the game.
The taps were created when researchers sent a very low-frequency signal to Glass’s speaker system. At less than 15 Hertz, the signal was below hearing range but, because it was played very slowly, the sound was felt as a vibration.
Half of the participants in the study felt the vibration taps and heads a voice prompt for each corresponding letter. The other half – the control group – felt no taps to help them learn.
Participants were tested throughout the study on their knowledge of Morse code and their ability to type it.
After less than four hours of feeling every letter, everyone was challenged to type the alphabet in Morse code in a final test.
The control group was accurate only half the time. Those who felt the passive cues were nearly perfect.
“This research also shows that other common devices with an actuator could be used for passive haptic learning,” said Thad Starner, professor at Georgia Tech.