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For many, travel becomes a stressful and overwhelming prospect. K., there are about 180,000 people who rarely if ever get out and about.

That’s a massive social issue in its own right,” said Richard Leaman, CEO of Guide Dogs. Supporting blind people with 5,000 guide dogs is really not scratching the surface. had sensor-enriched zones where this capability worked, I think it would be an incredible achievement.

“The possibility of what this could be was exciting and still is.

We’ve only done a concept, it’s still pure research and development, but the possibilities are endless and the impact is incredible if we get this right.” It takes weeks for a mobility trainer to help a user learn a short route, say from home to a bus stop, and even familiar paths can yield unanticipated difficulties — silent cyclists, disruptive construction, noiseless smart cars, hanging tree branches, tipped-over garbage bins, delayed buses.

Yet somehow, the delightfully DIY experience is vastly more than the sum of its parts. ” And they’re off, moving quickly through the neighborhood as Amélie provides a running commentary: The golden bust of a horse hanging over a shop is missing an ear; that laughing is the florist, who has crinkly eyes; there are lollipops in the bakery window. “One of the hardest parts is being confronted by unexpected situations.

I was about to try a prototype of Microsoft’s 3D soundscape technology — an audio-rich experience in which the headset, smartphone and indoor and outdoor beacons all work together to enhance the mobility, confidence and independence of people with vision loss.

I was so excited to get the hang of it that I was reluctant to remove the blindfold and headset once we reached Reading Station. ” After she leaves him, the man turns to the sky, a look of sheer joy on his face.

Parker and Yates said this is a common reaction from people who have made the journey, visually impaired and sighted alike. While he has no doubt traversed that street many times before, Amélie’s observations made it a different kind of trip. “There are quite a few technology offerings out there which certainly claim they’re going to change the lives of blind people — that it will be the same as if you could see, which of course isn’t true,” said Jennifer Bottom, a 26-year-old who works in tech support for a software company.

The galloping coconuts sound seemed to be coming from a meter or two in front of me, and would become a comforting indicator of my forward progress on the correct (beacon-embedded) path through the neighborhood.

(Later, lost and hungry in London, I found myself wishing the galloping coconuts could lead me to the nearest well-reviewed pub for a pie and a pint.) As I took my first tentative steps, I noticed a second sound — a sort of sonar ping.


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