While at the Open Source Hardware Summit last weekend, I had the pleasant surprise of running into Jacob Rosenthal. He walked up and held up a peculiar-looking strip of electronics and immediately caught my attention. What he was holding was not immediately identifiable, but the second he said, "they're vibrator motors," I got it.
Jacob had started out working with the tiny, shaftless vibratory motors with the goal of creating new and interesting haptic interfaces. The issue he ran into, however, was that he really needed multiple motors and an ability to mount them in various points on different moving surfaces. Simply creating modules and running wire between them was going to be a huge pain. He realized however, that LED strips that have the WS2801 driver could drive the motors instead of LEDs. All he had to do was disconnect the LED and connect the motor.
Now he has strips of motors that can be attached to a person in multiple ways for different experiments. He says he has successfully attached them to hats, belts, arms, and legs. One can imagine many uses for a system like this, such as telling the user what direction they should go via GPS, or notifying someone who can't see of possible obstructions.
Jacob was lamenting that many manufacturers are moving to an integrated driver/LED setup, which will make this a bit more difficult to source in the future. He would ultimately like to run his own flexible PCB strips for the motors, but has yet to find the name of the exact type of flexible strip that the LED strips are using. If you've got any experience with flexible PCB sourcing, I'm sure Jacob would love to hear from you.