What is Microsoft up to now? Empowering people with sight loss the opportunity to experience city life.
Everyone has a right to independence, but not everyone has the capacity. Cities Unlocked aims to set people with sight loss free to experience city life like never before. The pilot program is a unique collaboration between Microsoft, the U.K. charity Guide Dogs, and urban innovator Future Cities Catapult as well as other partners from business and academia. Even local travel is difficult and daunting with vision loss, which could be part of why of the two million people in the U.K. who have registered their visual impairment, 180,000 rarely if ever go outside, according to Guide Dogs. In the U.S., about 65 percent of people with vision loss are unemployed.
The partners worked together to create a prototype headset and mobile app that works with Bluetooth beacons placed along a given route to provide audio turn-by-turn directions, nearby points of interest (“Chiropractor, about 10 meters”), transportation updates (“No. 9 bus is approaching”) and even polite warnings (“Be aware: This is a main road”).