Fujitsu phones to guide the blind through homes
Fujitsu has helped develop an indoor support system that utilises impulse radio ultrawideband (UWB) tech to guide blind and partially sighted people around their homes.
The system - co-created with Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology - gives audio instructions on distances and directions to a destination. It does this with pulses sent out in the 7.25-10.25GHz band to determine the user's distance from base-stations positioned throughout the room.
A host computer calculates the person's position from the distance supplied by each base-stations. That information is relayed by Bluetooth to the user's mobile device, handed over to a mapping application developed for Android that guides the holder to their destination with spoken instructions.
With a margin of error of less than 0.3m, UWB tech is said to be far more accurate than GPS systems - and can work in a room into which satellite signals can't penetrate.
The system is in its early days, working only to guide the user around a large open space. But NICT and Fujitsu plan to push the technology further with sensors that can detect obstacles in the user's path.
The current implementation also requires users select their destination by tapping the handset's screen - clearly, not an ideal approach for the truly visually impaired.
In addition to helping blind folk get about, NICT and Fujitsu also reckon there's a role for the technology in guiding sighted people to the nearest exit in case of emergency.
In the meantime, the firms will be demonstrating the tech at the Wireless Technology Park 2012 in Pacifico Yokohama, Japan, from 6-7 July. ®
Can this tech be applied to anonymous El Reg commenters too?
"You are veering madly off topic. It is in the direction of six o'clock, three miles away"
iOS devices are used by many blind people
Thanks to VoiceOver, the screen reader that comes included for free with iOS.
Android also has some screen reader solutions, but not all are free and none are as good as VoiceOver.
So no, tapping the destination on a touchscreen isn't a problem.
This could be very useful in train stations, airports, shopping malls, etc.
PS: I'm blind and use an iPhone and an iPad every day.
Re: I doubt it's for home use...
Thats what I thought, be much more useful in unfamiliar surroundings.
Great idea though.
As said above, I'm not sure this is much cop for someone's own home. Any blind person not mentally capable of learning their way round their own home, is really going to struggle to use this app. On the other hand, it could be great for getting round public exhibitions, museums and the like.
Also, I presume you could have tracking devices on such things as keys, so they could be located when lost. Everyone loses their keys, it's just much more of a bugger to find them if you can't see.
I'm also a bit concerned about designing touch screen apps for blind people. My tests with a very smart, IT literate, blind 11 year old and my iPad were not at all successful. We tried it for an hour, and he's the best in his class at IT - although that should be no surprise considering he's got a normal and a Braille laptop, plus various other gizmos.
However, the RNIB recommend the iPhone, and he's getting an iPod Touch for his birthday. So my scepticism may be wrong. Also Android has the key advantage over iOS of allowing haptic feedback, which in my opinion is a killer application for blind people using touch screens.
Hooray for shiny tech. Making life easier. You can now get a £100 personal satnav to guide you to the shops, or tell you where you are on a bus, so you know when to get off. Still no household robot or flying car though...
I'm sure it will be patented, then an iOS app will come out that does similar, be withdrawn due to court action and be used to bash Apple with.