Microsoft has been very busy in the past two or so years, working on a rather ambitious project known as Cities Unlocked with the main target of the project being the visually impaired.
Why call it ambitious? Well, this is because the Windows maker plans to use smartphone technology and advanced GPS to help the visually impaired find it easy to walk around cities without needing any help from other individuals.
According to a report in the Telegraph, who tested the second phase of the Cities Unlocked initiative, the new Microsoft technology will now help guide people to their preferred destinations as well as understand their exact location about the most popular landmarks and locations. This device will be accompaniedby spatial audio, which means that users will be able to listen to their way on the road.
The new over-ear headphones are being tried by Microsoft in a bid to help take care of the problems the visually impaired persons go through every single day of their lives. The headphones have been designed by GN Store Nord, and it comes with a pyrometer, accelerometer, speakers as well as compass. The speakers are located in different parts of the headphones such that it is easy to get the impression of sound coming from several directions.
When you press the orientate button on the Bluetooth remote that comes with it, you will be able to figure out the exact place you are standing. According to the Telegraph’s James Titcomb, the new 3D audio technology will give you a picture of where you are, warn you about road signs and crossings, alert you when passing by a bus stop and tell you the routes that are about to arrive and so much more.
An empowering and assuring discovery
There is nothing empowering and reassuring to not just a visually impaired person, but also to everyone, knowing exactly where they are, especially when in a public space. Microsoft has ensured that the guiding system of this gadget is perfect and in doing so, it has integrated GPS into its Soundscape app such that figuring out your exact location when outdoors shouldn’t be a problem.
When indoors the headphone relies on Bluetooth beacons located in buildings and stores to tell your exact location. This is, however, where it gets a little tricky since the beacons available are typically meant for monitoring customer footfall, which means they will have to be reprogrammed to provide the visually impaired with the required feedback. Furthermore, they will have to be implemented everywhere so as to make the technology feasible.
If this technology succeeds, it would be a huge welcome for the visually impaired as it can help ease the problems they face when trying to move around. However, it is still too early to rush into conclusions as Microsoft has only said that the Cities Unlocked project is currently in the testing stages, and it will take some time before it is availed to the public.