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Surgeon David Allamby FRCS(Ed), FRCOphth
 David Allamby

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How an app can help the blind

Learn more about vision correction

23
Jan
2014

How an app can help the blind

A smart phone app has been developed which will help blind and visually impaired people navigate their surroundings. Standard navigational apps currently use GPS and voice controls for directions which can run into problems in certain situations. For example, the directions can stop working when GPS is not available and voice directions can be drowned out in noisy environments.

Developers from The University of Palermo in Italy, have developed a new alternative that will eliminate all its predecessors problems. Surprisingly the new approach is inspired by a well known story from Greek mythology, Theseus and the Minotaur. In the mythological tale Theseus has to brave a labyrinth in order to slay the Minotaur, a half man half bull beast. Ariadne, the beautiful daughter of King Minos of Crete, fell in love with Theseus and gave him a ball of string to help him out of the maze. Theseus tied his string to the start of the maze and was able to follow follow it back after killing the monster and escaping from the labyrinth. Rather than laying string, the app uses coloured tape which is stuck to the ground. The app user is then able to angle the camera on the phone towards the floor, and by waving the phone from side to side it scans, searching for the markers. When it picks out the line, it will vibrate, sending a signal to the user that they are on the right path. As well as this it can also identify certain features and landmarks, such as toilets and shops that are close by.

This software could really revolutionise navigation for for the blind, providing independence, and freedom to travel and find their way around on their own. Of course, because it is an app, it is relatively low cost, where as most other hi-tech aids are so expensive, they are not affordable for most people. It looks like many people will benefit from this simple, cost effective and more importantly life changing app.

By: David Allamby
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