The University of California at Santa Barbera has been conducting research to produce a GPS system that can guide blind users using a unique spatialized audio system. The specialized GPS system incorporates a compass so the user always knows what direction they are facing. The research is being conducted by Professor Jack Loomis and post-doctoral researcher Jim Marston.
"The compass and GPS are both connected to a portable computer that combines the information from the two sources and provides feedback to the user, Marston said. The computer can provide sound via stereo headphones that the user perceives as if it is coming from an imaginary location in space. For example, if the sound going to the left ear is louder and slightly less delayed than the sound going to the right ear, the listener will think the sound came from the left. The computer uses a stereo audio system called a spatialized display to guide the user by having them walk toward the apparent location of the sound.
GPS uses a series of locations on a map called waypoints to record the directions to a specific destination. The more turns a route has, the more waypoints are needed to accurately depict the route.
“It’s like a loudspeaker at the next waypoint,” Marston said. “There’s no way you can miss, you just follow the beep.”"
The special GPS system they have developed has only one drawback- the earphones. The blind use echolocation to help determine if they are getting close to objects in their path and the research team is working on earphones that will not interfere with that process. On the plus side the special system is entirely voice activated which makes it possible to control the system entirely with spoken commands.
(via Nexus Daily Online)