New GPS Gadget for the Visually Impaired

Dec 14, 2010
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For centuries, individuals with visual impairments have used white canes to feel in which direction for the user to walk and to avoid bumping into obstacles. Then specially trained dogs were enlisted to help the visually impaired to safely navigate. There has also been several GPS navigation-assistance systems created for the blind, but none of those gadgets were meant to replace canes or guide dogs until now.

Before we get to the new invention, here is a short background on GPS gadgets previously on the market to assist the visually impaired.

Loadstone GPS was developed in 2004 by inventors who are visually impaired. The Loadstone project is open source software that runs on cell phones such as Nokia S60 platforms and all Symbian operating systems. A GPS receiver must be connected by Bluetooth to the mobile phone. Since rural or developing regions may not have accurate map data available, the Loadstone community is working to import coordinates from free sources such as OpenStreetMap as well as user-generated navigation waypoints.

Wayfind Access was developed to work with Symbian cell phones with screen readers that support Braille and text-to-speech technology. Among the specialized features, it has a database of 20 million points of interest, “Where am I?” and “What is my surrounding?” features.

Trekker and BrailleNote GPS are PDA adapted for the visually impaired or blind. They feature talking menus, talking maps and GPS information. It allows users to create routes, determine position and query an “exhaustive” database of locations such as hotels or restaurants.

Mobile Geo is the first GPS solution for those with visual impairments or blindness that works with smartphones, PDAs and Pocket PC phones.

None of those solutions were meant to replace a cane or a dog guide, but now Designer Noam Klopper has created a cool GPS gadget to assist the visually impaired that is intended to replace the cane or guide dogs. “VIA” (Visually Impaired Assistant) is worn on the hand and has four mini-cameras attached to it that use video motion detection technology, as well as a voice-operated GPS receiver. The gadgets mold to the user’s hands as if they were jewelry, but acts as both a walking stick and a mapping system. The VIA devices use two different vibration mechanisms that guide the user away from obstacles. Like some other electronic gadgets, VIA can be recharged on a wireless charging mat.

The below video shows VIA in action:

Author: Tessa