A new talking headset developed by Microsoft is set to revolutionise the ability of the visually impaired to navigate unfamiliar urban areas.

Sitting on the front of the ear so as not to drown out environmental noise, the headset provides descriptions of street names, nearby businesses and upcoming obstacles, such as parked cars or low-hanging branches. If a specific route is requested, a soft clicking noise is made at short intervals to assure wearers they are on the right track.

Linked to a Smartphone app, the headset uses a mixture of ‘beacons’ embedded in the urban landscape, GPS data and information from annotated maps to describe the city environment directly to the wearer.

The technology was designed in conjunction with the charity Guide Dogs. ‘People living with sight loss face a multitude of challenges every day that can prevent them from getting where they want to be in life… visiting a new city is often daunting, even for people with enough confidence to tackle the challenge independently,’ said Jenny Cook, head of strategy and research at Guide Dogs.

The technology is currently undergoing testing in the United Kingdom.

Original author: Alexia