Using voice direction, a newly added feature in Google Maps, people with impaired vision can now get to their walking destinations with ease. The feature, which was recently announced by Google, will provide continuous reminder by way of voice direction to users that they are on the right path. The feature will also warn them when they whenever they approach a busy crosswalk, informing them how far away the next turn is. That is not all, voice direction in Maps will also point them instead to the right direction if they have to stop.
In a post announcing the release of the new feature, Google said voice direction is currently only available in two languages including English in the US and Japanese. However, more languages will be added which will offer support in more countries soon. You can turn on the new feature by going to the Google Maps’ settings menu.
In 2018, Microsoft launched Soundscape; an app designed to help people with impaired vision. The app will provide 3D audio signals that will help you find your way around town, malls, coffee shops and more. Soundscape will also be a willing ally when it comes to making you aware of your immediate environment and the things around you as you move around.
Soundscape is very different from step-by-step navigation apps. According to Microsoft, the app “uses 3D audio cues to enrich ambient awareness and provide a new way to relate to the environment. It allows you to build a mental map and make personal route choices while being more comfortable within unfamiliar spaces.”
Getting started with Soundscape: Connect a stereo headset or earbuds. Follow the introduction and when prompted, allow the app to access your location. Then, explore a familiar route to get used to how Soundscape delivers spatial information.
The app was created by Microsoft in partnership with Guide Dogs UK, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and the LightHouse for the Blind. The technology is fairly new, and still requires a lot of getting used to, but things are expected to improve with time. As a matter of fact, Microsoft is calling for feedback from users to enable it improve on those areas where users might experience some challenges while using Soundscape.
However, Google Map’s latest feature is different because it is being integrated into the app and not a standalone app just like Microsoft’s Soundscape. Both, however, are commendable and other tech giants could put in more efforts to help people with impaired vision to get to their destinations safely.
Three years ago however, Facebook launched artificial intelligence to assist visually impaired people. Called the automatic alternative text (AAT), It describes images to blind or visually impaired individuals.