‘Virtual vision’ system is a boost for blind independence

New iBeacon guidance technology could revolutionize indoor navigation for the visually impaired. A pilot project is currently underway at the CNIB’s headquarters in north Toronto.

by: Christopher Reynolds Staff Reporter Published on Thu Aug 13 2015

A blind computer software engineer from Toronto is giving eyes to those who can’t see.
David Best, a former IBM web developer, has just helped usher in the first pilot system in Canada created specifically to help visually impaired people — nearly 200,000 in Ontario alone — navigate the indoors.
A network of “iBeacons” launched last month inside the headquarters of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) in north Toronto could, Best believes, sweep aside travel barriers, boost blind independence and open up worlds beyond the tip of the cane.
“It gives me virtual vision,” he said of the iBeacons, a recent Apple device.
Small and inexpensive, iBeacons beam information on a much smaller scale than the older GPS-based voice-over technology that has empowered sight-deprived individuals in the open air for several years. Any area under a roof or behind concrete, however, is largely off-limits to GPS, a duller digital tool for indoor spaces.
“GPS works outside; iBeacons work inside,” said Jim Sanders, former president of the CNIB.

Smaller than an ice cream sandwich, iBeacons can be slapped on hallway walls or around the office. They work by sending out Bluetooth signals picked up by iOS. That signal, recognized by an approaching smartphone or tablet, triggers an audio description, or voice-over, of the immediate area through an app called BlindSquare.
“You walk along and it will say, ‘Washrooms on the left.’ It will tell you the elevator’s on the right, and even which floors it goes to,” Sanders said of the simple but potentially game-changing technology.
“It’s a complete breakthrough.”……….
Read more: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/08/13/virtual-vision-system-is-a-boost-for-blind-independence.html
Source: The Star