Access granted: Helping people with disabilities explore the places they love

Microsoft for Startups is portion galore young companies develop technology that can help people with disabilities safely navigate the areas they live in. There are 11 businesses in the current AI for Good cohort and all of them are graduating on June 4.

Access Earth, which lets people find and rate places based on their accessibility inevitably, is one of those benefitting from the US company’s proposal, support and products.

Another is WeWalk, which has created a product that fits onto any cane and uses ultrasound detectors to warn visually impaired people of high obstacles so much as tree branches. The device can besides be paired with a mobile phone for navigation and other digital features. Feghali, a PHD research worker at Imperial College London, is advising the company.

“I see very little at night, and I often miss property in front of me,” he says during a meeting at a Microsoft office. “It’s like wearing very dark, tinted dark glasses. I have an idea of where sources of light are but ne'er obstacles that can hit me, like trees for instance. The issue with property like trees and signs is their bases are so small that you can wave your cane and it’ll probably miss those obstacles. nevertheless, with the ultrasound detector, the WeWalk device will vibrate when thing is a certain distance away. You can manually set that distance, too.

“My WeWalk will ring when a set of trees is over there, but when it vibrates, I know thing is going to be just over here. I swipe the cane once, OK I know there’s no tree over here, so I can walk forward now. It’s given me confidence. I can now swipe the cane left and right, know that thing is there, which I wouldn’t have found before, and move past it.”

As WeWalk can be screwed on to the top of any cane, Feghali now entirely uses it when he goes outside. Before departure his house, he golf links WeWalk to his phone via Bluetooth, facultative a host of other features that can be used entirely by interacting with WeWalk’s buttons, touchpad or by turning the cane or striking the end on the ground – audio navigation cues that guide him to destinations, bus timetables that are read aloud (in Turkey it uses Bluetooth technology to tell you when your bus is approaching and instruct the driver to stop), or asking his phone to make a sound if he’s misplaced it, are some examples.