Navigation Apps For The Visually Impaired

Smartphone apps have produced some amazing things, from apps which use the phone’s camera to monitor heart rate to others with the ability to improve our eyesight.

And now there’s another of these amazing apps out there, which is set to help the visually impaired navigate around towns and cities.

The app

The app, produced by the Google Eyes-Free Android group, comes in two parts. The first, named WalkyTalky, uses Google Maps to voice addresses and street locations as the user walks by them, and provides the ability for the user to speak their desired destination and follow a sat-nav like system to get there.

Intersection Explorer, the second app, works in conjunction with WalkyTalky and allows the user to run their fingers across the phone screen to explore their surroundings. The app is able to trace finger movements along the digital map and speak each street that the user identifies. It has further uses at intersections, where it is able to speak the name of each street and its compass direction in relation to the phone.

How does it work?

The app employs technology already present in smartphones to provide the experience. The phone vibrates when a user runs their finger along a street, and lifting the finger continues the map in the same direction until the next intersection, at which it performs the functions detailed above.

As well as this, the app monitors distance travelled to keep an accurate location, and is able to speak this to the user at any time.

Possible problems

Apps such as these are notoriously difficult to successfully implement. Whilst they are fantastic on paper, they can only work as well as the mapping technology which governs them. Accounting for streets, buildings and other mapped objects is a relatively simple thing, but to produce an app which can monitor moving objects such as cars, pedestrians and various other potential health hazards is much harder.

Though undoubtedly a milestone technology, developers would most likely be loathe to put individual’s safety solely in the hands of an app.

Are smart phones the future?

When the first smartphones were introduced we saw them as both a fascinating new invention and a landmark in the development of mobile technology. Now though with the introduction of apps such as these, as well as others scientifically proven to help increase the strength of our eyes, we can’t help but wonder whether their future is far more important than we initially gave them credit for… Will the future see similar apps which take advantage of phone cameras to warn of possible dangers, for example?

Robin blogs for prescription glasses online retailer


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