This is a fascinating article and video.
If some of these things happen, travel for people who are blind or have low vision could be very different and enhanced.
I think we are already noticing this.
With apps like blindsquare for I devices, near by explorer for android, and more, travel even in new locations is getting much easier..
Any device that enhances the tools in our tool box is always welcome.
See article and video below..
Posted by Kim Kilpatrick
Visionary – International Guide Dogs Federation magazine February 2015.
exploring the world using 3D Soundscapes
John Shelton, – Cities Unlocked Program, Manager , Guide Dogs UK
In 2013 Guide Dogs and Microsoft created a film called A Family Day Out to
demonstrate technology concepts that could greatly enhance the quality of
life for blind and visually impaired people.
Following the launch of the film, Guide Dogs and Microsoft teamed up with
Future Cities Catapult to research and pilot some of the concepts; the
programmed of work is called Cities Unlocked.
To bring the concepts imagined in the film to life, we conducted an in-depth
analysis of current technology and transport issues affecting intermodal
journeys made by people who are blind or partially sighted. This research
identified the key stress points in their journeys and possible solutions to
alleviate them. We then set about designing and developing prototype
technologies that, with a little training and practice, dissolve into the
background of the user experience to enhance but not hinder cognitive
ability. The pilot technologies are moving us closer to Social Computing –
whereby places, points of interest and objects are aware of each other, and
are contextually aware of us and our social interactions.
How the technology works
Crudely speaking, there are three aspects to the technology:
A ‘Cities Unlocked’ smartphone app that can be used with just one hand ..A
bone-conducting headset containing a Gyro, GPS and Accelerometer to place
information in 3D space relative to the direction the user is facing ..A
boosted environment using GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy beacons to aid
orientation, navigation, transport and retail experiences Once user
preferences have been set and a route selected, the phone can be stowed in a
pocket or bag, leaving the user free to go about their business whilst
receiving useful information through the headset in a unique 3D Soundscape.
Additional buttons mounted on the headset, allow the user to access more
information on the move without needing to take the phone out of their bag
Here are examples of some of the features:
If the user is facing in the wrong direction they hear a clip-clop sound
coming from the direction that they should be facing ..The user rotates
towards the clipclop sound, and when they are facing in the right direction
they will hear a gentle ping sound ..The ping sound plots the route, so the
user simply follows the ping whilst using their guide dog or cane ..Along
the route the user receives navigation information e.g. “turn left in
They also receive contextual information e.g. “dropped curb approximately 3
meres” or “caution, this street regularly has cars parked on the pavement”
Points of interest, shops and street furniture are also announced in 3D
Soundscape – it sounds as though the announcement is coming from the
direction of the point of interest. If the user changes direction the
announcement automatically changes direction accordingly.
Bus stops, bus timetables, and when the next bus is approaching are
announced. On the bus journey the technology continues to announce
approaching stops and points of interest that the bus is passing. It also
works in a similar fashion on train journeys.
Results from our user trials We conducted a trial with 8 participants and
used data collection tools to assess mobility and quality of life factors
while the participants undertook a long, complex and unfamiliar intermodal
journey without the technology. This provided a baseline measure against
which to measure any positive or negative effects when traveling the same
journey some weeks later using the technology.
The illustration shows the improvements across 17 wellbeing measures in six
areas; physiology, orientation skills, cognitive/conceptual skills, mobility
skills, safety skills, and use of residual vision (for those that had some).
The pink area shows results using their normal mobility aid, the blue area
shows the improvement when the technology is used alongside the mobility
The results show that the concept is a success in helping VI people’s
mobility. Importantly, none of the markers showed a negative impact, and the
results indicate that the technology is a complement to traditional mobility
Recognising that the solutions need to be sustainable on their own merit,
otherwise they will raise expectations and lead to disappointment, we have
now started planning for Phase 2 to incorporate the lessons learned into a
bigger and more ambitious project.
We know that what we are doing is important globally – but we must all
remember that what we are doing isn’t really about the technology; it is
about people and the user experience.
Watch the Cities Unlocked film with audio description: