Microsoft has unveiled a new project which aims to help blind people enjoy more freedom in urban areas, using Mubaloo's miBeacons to help guide them around cities.
The project, Cities Unlocked, was developed in partnership with charity Guide Dogs and the government's Future Cities Catapult. It uses jaw-bone conducting technology that incorporates an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and GPS chip to track the user's position.
The system combines location and navigation data from GPS and Microsoft Bing Maps, coordinated by a network of MiBeacons, to help visually impaired users navigate complex urban environments. Trials are currently being run in Reading and in Paddington Station, to fine tune the system based on user feedback.
"By focusing on how devices connect with the physical world around us, Microsoft has shown the need to think about how people access real world places," said Mike Crooks, development director for MiBeacons. "Technology should be an enabler for people, rather than being used for strictly commercial advantages.
"Beacons are a key technology for helping to connect the physical world with our digital devices. Seeing beacons being used to help people feel empowered is truly inspirational."
The launch in Reading and London is just phase one of the project, with the companies involved hoping that in the future, the technology can be used across other urban areas and opened up to more people.