With their GPS capabilities and navigation apps, smartphones have undoubtedly made it easier for us to find our way around. The good news is we are starting to see these benefits extended to the visually impaired. SightCompass is a system that harnesses these strengths of the smartphone and combines them with proximity beacons to inform blind people of their surroundings.
SightCompass uses an array of beacons that function as proximity sensors. These could be fixed to certain locations around a building. They can then be programmed to push information to a user's mobile device over Bluetooth LE as they come within a 300 ft radius (92 m).
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The information may detail the layout of a TV remote control, where to find the fresh apples in the supermarket or how to locate the bathroom in a restaurant. While these instructions are first pushed to the mobile device in the form of the written word, a mobile screen reader would then be employed to translate them to audio information.
As for where this content actually comes from, the information can be customized and kept up to date by users through the SightCompass desktop and mobile app, with the beacons powered by a 3-volt lithium battery said to last two years.
World Beacon, the company behind SightCompass, is based in Phoenix, Arizona and says it already has arrangements in place with local organizations, such as the Foundation for Blind Children, the Phoenix Parks and Recreation department and the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Through a Kickstarter campaign, it is now looking to raise funds for further production and to increase awareness of the SightCompass system. It hopes to spread the technology throughout schools, institutions and businesses around the globe.
We have seen similar approaches before, most recently when the Royal London Society for Blind People used Bluetooth beacons to guide the blind through the London underground. Clearly there is still a ways to go before these solutions become widespread, but its not hard to see the massive potential for upside if they do.
An early pledge of US$129 will put you in line for a SightCompass beacon should the campaign reach its $100,000 goal and deliver on its promises. Shipping is slated for December 2014.
You can check out the pitch video below.
Source: World Beacon