Il Village from Italy is currently working on a GPS satellite system that will offer a greater degree of mobility and independence to the blind and visually impaired, and this system will be known as the Easy Walk service. The brainchild of Il Village’s technology officer, Andrea de Paoli, the Easy Walk system comprises of a Symbian-based cellphone, a Bluetooth GPS receiver, text-to-speech software called Talks, and a call center that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There will be a couple of dedicated keys on the handset, where one of them will let the user know of their exact location when pressed (down to the house or building number) while the other alerts the call center in the event where the user requires assistance with navigation.
An operator will subsequently call the blind person and liaise with him/her, staying on the line with them while providing the user with step-by-step instructions in order to reach the destination. I must say, having a human accompany someone blind (albeit over the phone) is definitely much more comforting than having a machine voice out directions in a cold manner.
The Easy Walk system is currently undergoing tests by a group of thirty people from the Italian Blind Union in order to further fine tune the project. Time will tell whether this will be effective in helping out the visually impaired around the world, but we can always keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.
Source: BBC News