Trying to use a map can sometimes be frustrating for all of us. If you're visually impaired, this process can be even more difficult and frustrating. New technology is trying to rectify this problem with a multi-sensory map that gives spoken directions. The new map has been developed by the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access at the University of Buffalo, in conjunction with Touch Graphics. The Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts was among the first to try out the new technology. Users reported that they received information on local landmarks and buildings when key areas were touched.
This map senses pressure from the user's fingers. Signals are then sent through to sensors located in a pedestal, after which the computer announce directions and the names of buildings as you continue to use it. Need a little more information? No problem. The talking map provides you with more details as you keep your finger placed on the location. Another benefit of the map is that it can be fully customized, allowing custom images, visual effects, and satellite imagery for those who aren't visually impaired. Although the map was developed for the blind, it could transform the way we all interact with our surroundings.
The map has been designed for ease of use, with sound effects that help the user realize their surroundings. The maps only focus on information that the individual will find useful, and omit anything that is deemed to be unnecessary. The developers of the technology believe that touch screen monitor maps like these could provide a wealth of benefits in the future, not only for the visually impaired, but for anyone trying to locate a landmark or building in their local area.
Touch screen maps have come a long way since they were first introduced, and technology has been invented to reflect the needs of the visually impaired. Touch screen technology in particular is a huge leap forward, as many blind people can navigate an address for a building or landmark using a GPS system but need some additional information to locate a particular department, office, floor, or room number (not always included on conventional maps). These maps are also innovative because they rely on touch and gesture from the individual, rather than just relaying spoken instructions. It's the combination of audio and sensory communication used on the map that makes this project so important.