In collaboration with Guide Dogs, Microsoft has updated its assistive technology to create a more useful experience for those with vision impairments.
Microsoft has updated its assistive technology in collaboration with British charity Guide Dogs, adding an app and smart headsets aimed to help those with vision impairments better navigate their surroundings using sound.
Microsoft said the collaboration with Guide Dogs allows them to explore the potential the technology has to enable people living with sight loss to become independent and confident when outside.
In first phase, the device operated by bouncing information from sensors attached on any item such as train carriages or buildings to a wearer’s headband receiver. The leading prototype of the technology was revealed last year and applied a series of constant clicking sounds to direct in the correct direction to wearers. Phase two of the technology includes a reform which it said is more “descriptive rather than prescriptive”, according to Microsoft.
Amos Miller, an employee of theirs, inspired the computer giant initially to create the technology. Miller, with a visual impairment himself, was encouraged by the birth of his daughter to make a life where he could be with her out-of-doors with not anxiety or feel fear he would usually have when travelling around in new environments unaided.
According to Microsoft, sound is used as an anchor, the technology was updated when those trialling phase one found in lieu of sight.
The new “Orientate” and “Look Ahead” features enable wearers to instantly find out what is immediately around them, as well as get more information about what is coming up, hearing it in distance order.
Two new experiences that have been added to the software allow users to use either their voice or a physical remote to ask for and hear additional information about landmarks around them. This works alongside navigation within the app that guides wearers to and around a destination using directional audio and sound prompts to help build a mental image.
Additionally, Microsoft developed an integrated application called “CityScribe” which enables people to tag obstacles in their city which most mapping services do not pick up including park benches, low jutting corners, bins, or street furniture.