A handheld device for blind people to independently reach their destination on foot is to go on trial this month in Turin, Italy.
Conceived and funded by the regional government of Piedmont, ‘Easy walk’ uses a Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled mobile phone to provide audible directions. Once launched in August, it will be free to use.
The navigational device tells users the address their current location as well as directions, ‘left,’ ‘right,’ ‘straight on,’ and so on, until they reach their destination. For users that are stuck or lost, the system allows them to call a contact centre where an operator sees their position on a computer screen and guides them on their journey over the phone.
The pilot follows a campaign by the local branch of the Unione Italiana dei Ciechi (Italian Blind Union) to increase the safety of crossings in the region.
Problems with the accuracy of the precision of users’ positions have been smoothed out, financial advisor at the Italian Blind and co-developer of the device, Federico Borgna told E-Access Bulletin, although there are improvements yet to be made. The GPS, for example, fails to work under tram wires, said Borgna.
In future, users will be able to personalise the device, adding the names of shops or offices on routes that are then saved, for example.
Developers also aim for the Easy Walk to provide directions to users anywhere in Italy or France. The device has been developed by the Italian wireless technology company Il Village .