Navigation system for blind uses sat-nav and sound

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A Spanish company has developed a new system that uses three-dimensional sounds to help blind or visually impaired people navigate outdoors

Geko NAVSAT says its new system, which is designed to be installed on a mobile phone, uses three-dimensional acoustic stimuli to guide the user along unfamiliar routes without the need to look at the mobile.

The way the system works is that the user can hear a snap sound through any stereo earphone and intuitively identify where it is coming from.

We use the richness of 3D perception that sound has and we combine it with satellite navigation technology so that users can orient themselves in a specific direction.

Said Rafael Olmedo, the head of Geko NAVSAT and one of the system’s creators.

The new system can also be used with bone conduction earphones, which allow the user to continue to hear sounds from the surrounding area as well as the snap sounds.

This is important because visually impaired people need to continue hearing environmental sounds and these bone conduction earphones allow them to hear a layer of augmented acoustic reality that is superimposed on the environmental sounds.

Olmedo said.

The company has already developed a mobile application (Acoustic Trail) that uses 3D acoustic stimuli to guide people who practice mountain sports, and it is working on a prototype that would be accessible to visually impaired individuals, which it expects to become available in the coming months.

Our main challenge is to make it so that the system’s GPS guidance is precise to within one metre, so that the user can feel completely confident that the system is leading them down the right path.

Added Olmedo.

Geko NAVSAT receives assistance from the Business Incubator at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) Science Park. Its goal is to take full advantage of satellite navigation and integrate its potential with other technologies in order to develop innovative products and new applications in sectors such as aerospace, intelligent transportation, ICT, security, emergencies and the environment.

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