3D Soundscape – Wearable tech set to replace Guide Dogs
The time of the ever faithful and helpful guide dog could soon be coming to an end. For decades the humble guide dog has helped the visually-impaired get around and have the ability to be more independent. In conjunction with several charities and other partners, Microsoft is looking to help the visually impaired be even more independent.
Microsoft has developed a bone-conducting headset and smartphone application that will help the visually impaired make journeys safely and efficiently by means of audio cues, what they term the “3D soundscape”.
The technology combines an standard Windows Phone (but will work with any smart-phone and a bone-conducting headset to deliver a useful audio cues to the inner ear of the user (such as clicks and beeps). The use of a bone-conduting headsets allows the user to have their ears free to listen to their surroundings and engage in conversation.
How It Works
The 3D Soundscape technology uses the smartphone’s GPS and accelerometer sensors while picking up on information from special Bluetooth and Wi-Fi-beacons positioned along the route (this will also be added to the inside of buildings). Cloud based location and navigation data provides contextual information such as shops, points of interest, and additional journey details.
As the technology develops the user will be given information about local points of interest and information from shops (such as special offers and perhaps menu information from a restaurant)
Proof Of Concept
A trial was undertaken in a small London borough by a number of sighted and visually impaired subjects and journalists. Those sighted were blind-folded and guided along a journey though the borough with nothing but the Microsoft equipment to guide them. All users, sighted and impaired alike, reported that it was very easy to use and became second nature in a very short period of time.
One writer said this about the test:
There hasn’t been this much magic in the British suburbs since Harry Potter was dropped at 4 Privet Drive.
Jennifer Warnick – Microsoft Stories
For more information check out their “Independence Day” video below