Blind people can easily move in well known locations. The same is not true when they need to go to a location or building they have never been before. Typically they will either: a) use a conventional navigation app with audio instructions which is very difficult and tiring, b) use the taxi to go somewhere in the city and ask people for directions to walk the last stretch to the destination or c) are always accompanied someone else to guide them.
We are creating a mobile augmented reality application to guide blind people outdoors and inside buildings using spatial audio. The application determines the current position of the user and calculates the path to the destination. Virtual audio sources are automatically placed along the way. The listener hears the virtual sources as if they are real objects. Navigation is very intuitive as the user simply has to follow the sound that he hears in the direction he has to go.
So far we have created a proof-of-concept prototype which demonstrates the feasibility of the solution. It can be used to guide people inside a building from point A to point B. This prototype was tested two times. The first time with a population of seeing people who had to walk a path blindfolded. 70% of the people were able to successfully finish the task. We also tested with 6 blind people who were also able to finish the task. From both groups, the large majority gave very positive feedback and rated the solution as very intuitive.
Acoustics Research Institute from the Austrian Academy of Sciences: Research cooperation on the development of a realistic spatial audio engine.