Cities Unlocked, a partnership between Microsoft, Guide Dogs and Future Cities Catapult, has reported the results of the first phase of testing a new headset, designed to revolutionise the experience of navigating urban landscape for visually impaired people.
As part of the collaboration, the smart headset with Microsoft 3D audio technology was developed to help these people to confidently explore the city and surroundings on their own.
The new Cities Unlocked headset was built in partnership with AfterShokz and is paired with a Windows phone handset.
Guide Dogs head of strategy and research Jenny Cook said: "People living with sight loss face a multitude of challenges every day that can prevent them from getting where they want to be in life.
"Currently, visiting a new city is often daunting, even for people with enough confidence to tackle the challenge independently.
"For others, who rarely leave home alone, the thought of an unfamiliar journey leaves them stressed and anxious, and visiting a new area is an impossible dream.
"We’re breaking new ground with this project. By working with people who are living with sight loss and developing a deep understanding of the challenges they face, we’ve shown the right technology can empower people.
"At Guide Dogs, we already work with thousands of people to help them realise their potential, but we’re confident that this technology, alongside guide dogs and other mobility aids, can open up new possibilities for many people living with sight loss."
The new headset works with a Windows phone and aids orientation, navigation and offers contextual information such as shops, points of interest, and additional journey details.
In order to create a personalised 3D soundscape transmitted through the wearers jaw bone, cloud based location and navigation data works with a network of information beacons in urban locations.
Image: The new smart headset will allow people with sight loss to independently and spontaneously explore their city and surroundings. Photo: courtesy of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association 2014.