HoloLens, Microsoft’s augmented reality headset that is yet to hit mass market, has several useful applications, one of which is helping blind people navigate.
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology recently created an app for HoloLens that uses the device’s real time room and object mapping capabilities to provide directions to a blind person. The app also uses HoloLens’ speakers to provide audio directions (by a female voice) from various points in three dimensional space. The researchers used this app to create a complex path within a campus, involving a lobby, flight of stairs. and a few turns. Seven blind users then tried out this app, and they all reached their destination in the first attempt. As seen in the video below, the app provides audio cues like “follow me”, “railing on both sides”, “up stairs”, and “right turn ahead” to guide the blind user towards their destination.
The findings of this research suggest that devices like HoloLens can be offered at hotels, malls, and other large and unfamiliar areas to blind users so they could navigate through various areas without difficulty.
This research (and app) is still in its infancy though. In its current stage, a path between two points needs to be scanned in advance first. Secondly, it does not track other people who might walk into the blind user’s path as they are walking towards their destination. However, just like any other research study, this one shows a lot of potential, and will keep improving over a period of time.