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Microsoft believe that it is time for technology to help change the lives of people with visual impairment. The tech giants have teamed up with the Guide Dogs U.K Charity and Future Cities Catapult, an urban design agency, to bring some revolutionary technology that will assist people with visual impairment to experience their communities better. The project is also working with Network Rail, Reading Buses, Reading Borough Council and Tesco.
One of the projects aims is to help reduce the amount of blind people that are out of work due to their disability. In the UK and US alone, around 65% of visually impaired people are out of work currently and Microsoft aim to help people get out and about again, giving them more opportunity for work and friendship.
The way that this technology works is to use Microsoft's 3D soundscape technology which combines a headset, smartphone and indoor/outdoor beacons to allow people with sight loss to navigate around their surroundings more easily. The device will help to navigate new routes or ones that the user is familiar with, as even these routes can cause issues if unexpected obstacles are placed in the way such as roadworks, cyclists or parked vehicles.
Using the connected headset which sends sounds through the bone directly to the inner ear and leaves the ears unobstructed to allow them to hear the environment around or hold conversations. Specific “boosted routes” or routes that have Wifi and Bluetooth beacons send sounds to the device allowing the user to outmaneuver more easily and without issues. These routes provide a mixture of GPS navigation, bus and train times in real time and general information about the areas surrounding the user. Another great feature of this project is put into effect whilst shopping. Users can navigate the aisles of the supermarket and scan bar codes from their phone to find their favorite foods.
I have no doubt that this technology will greatly enhance the lives of people with visual impairment, and as the official video below states, I have no doubt that the technology will provide services that will allow everyone to benefit from in day to day life.
As always I will keep you up to date with the progress of the project and really look forward to following it. Check out the images and the official video from Microsoft for more information...