Microsoft works with British charity Guide Dogs to assist the visually impaired

Michael Cottuli

Microsoft has dabbled in all manner of technology – industrial, consumer, and otherwise. In recent years, however, Microsoft’s research and development team has been making several advancements in medical technology, and other devices to make people’s lives easier.  As ZDNet reports, the latest example of Microsoft’s quality-of-life objective is their work on a smart headset designed to help the vision-impaired navigate urban areas.
The device comes about from a collaboration with Guide Dogs, a charity based in Britain (this isn’t Microsoft’s first collaboration with Guide Dogs.) The device was inspired by Microsoft employee Amos Miller, who decided to start work on it after the birth of his daughter – an event which made him want to spend time outside without fear.
The band works by painting a 3D picture for the wearer, creating a soundscape using both verbal and non-verbal cues. Using the “Orientate” and “Look Ahead” features, people utilizing the device can immediately get a picture of their close surroundings. In addition, the “CityScribe” feature lets you tag certain obstacles in a city that may not have been picked up otherwise, so that it’ll never compromise the wearer’s confidence again.

An example of a headband that might be useful for such a project, via Microsoft.
An example of a headband that might be useful for such a project, via Microsoft.

The device isn’t commercial right now, remaining in trial phases. The trials seem to be exceedingly successful thus far,  however. Kate Riddle, one of the people who ran trials for the device, seemed to feel much more confident when using it.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It takes out so much of the stress of being somewhere new,” she said. “That is massively empowering, and it makes the journey pleasurable rather than a chore. Rather than going out because you have to, this is a ‘going out because I can’.”[/pullquote]
With trials continuing to run, there’s no telling when the software might make itself available to the public. That said, with its success so far, hopefully strides are being made to bring it to an expanded group of people.