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OPLIN 4cast #413: Wayfinding cues for the blind

Posted in 4cast

blind symbolThis may not have much to do with library technology — not yet, anyway — but it’s a cool story nonetheless. Libraries have always been involved with efforts to open the world of books to those who have vision impairment, of course, but it seems like new technologies that could be useful are often around for years before someone adapts them for the blind. Wearable technology, like Google Glass, easily could have become another example of new technologies ignoring the visually impaired; but now Microsoft is testing some wearable technology that has the potential to significantly enrich the lives of the blind.

  • Microsoft’s bone-conducting headset guides the blind with audio cues (Endgadget | Mariella Moon)  “Microsoft, for one, is currently testing a new headset (developed with help from UK charity Guide Dogs) that uses 3D soundscape technology to guide its users with audio cues along the way. That bone-conducting headset can’t work alone, though: it needs to be connected to a smartphone, as well as to receive information from Bluetooth and WiFi beacons placed in intervals throughout the roads users take.”
  • Independence Day: A new pilot program sets people with sight loss free to experience cities like never before (Microsoft/Stories | Jennifer Warnick)  “Microsoft designers worked incredibly closely with Guide Dogs — its employees, mobility experts and users like Bottom and Brewell — to genuinely understand the challenges of traveling to and fro with vision loss. The engineers and designers from Microsoft and mobility experts and users from Guide Dogs spent countless hours in the field together. In rain and wind, they patiently tried various half-baked ideas, experimented with different approaches to hardware and software, and gave essential feedback to help shape the technology every step of the way.”
  • Blind Microsoft director offers bold new vision w/ help from father of multi-touch (Daily Tech | Jason Mick)  “After all, dogs can’t tell you where the closest spot to grab a bite to eat is. A smartphone might tell you that. But even they fall short. A local public transit authority might offer vision impaired auditory clues, for example, and/or release a well-integrated smartphone app that tells riders exactly what bus is arriving when. But many city services lack these kind of accessibility efforts. And even those that have them, may be unable to save a vision impaired person from getting on the wrong bus, if the scheduled bus on the route is running late, and a different route is running early.”
  • Microsoft had to blindfold me so I could hear the future (The Verge | Tom Warren)  “The real magic of this system is the 3D audio technology that gives you a real sense of direction. One feature on the headset allows you to push a button and hear a list of nearby places of interest. They’re processed through the headset dependant on the direction you’re facing so that when a store is read aloud you’ll be able to hear the direction of where it’s located. That might be in the rear left or out in front, but the audio gives you a clear sense of where that store is along a route through just sound alone.”

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