Microsoft designs headsets for the blind: you will navigate the city with 3D audio

Microsoft is planning a three-dimensional audio navigation system for the blind, based on interactions between a bone conduction headset and software for smartphones.

Microsoft is well aware that millions of people every day face the dangers of the city without being able to see, and is planning a new tool to help them “navigate” in the anthills chaotic in which gathers most of Earth’s population.

HeadphoneIt is a kind of headset that transmits sound through the bones of the jaw – bone conduction, as the first models of Google Glass . In this case, however, the information is audio, and are in fact quite detailed. We do not know how it occurred to Microsoft so suddenly, but the system is designed really brilliant: there are several signs to indicate the route points, references, and then there are different sound effects to indicate shops, points of interest , details on the path chosen. All this can be summed to a normal route guidance system turn by turn for pedestrians, and as the sound passes through the bones, does not prevent the user to feel the environment – an extremely important consideration in this case. This device contains a compass, and when the user turns his head, the sounds indicate if the direction is right – and it is not a general direction, pointing the lens, but a true path that bypasses obstacles and dangers.

For now the headset works in tandem with a smartphone, used as GPS and as “electronic brain” for the navigation software, which needs connectivity to work (or at least of a detailed mapping archive online). Microsoft has designed a menu system audio you maneuver thanks to the hand gestures – vibrations and sounds communicate our choices, and “drag” options around.

This type of technology is thought to act as a support to the methods that already exist, such as guide dogs. In fact, it is not a substitute for an animal trained and reliable, but these earphones can be spread to disadvantaged segments of the population in developing countries, because unlike a guide dog can be produced in millions and millions in costs rather reduced.

Microsoft has put much effort in this production, which Satya Nadella himself follows many years. One of the leaders of the researchers Redmond, Bill Buxton, explained that the audio signals have been nicknamed “Earcon” (a word that combines mixed “ear” ear “beacon”, beacon signaling). According Buxton “There is the same care and craftsmanship in creating a good earcon of that mass to create an icon from the desktop.” If the project is not work, it could change the lives of nearly 285 million people on Earth.

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