When I first read about Peepo, my reaction wasn’t exactly glowing. Now, as it floats around my head, I wouldn’t trust it with my life, but I would love to get my little hands on one to test.
The basic premise is it’s another GPS solution, but it’s specifically a GPS for blinks with guide dogs. Half of it is a GPS device which is strictly voice-activated, and the other half is a weird little doo hicker that clips to the guide dog’s harness handle. This piece gives you vibratory feedback, and tells you whether you should go left or right, whether you should go straight on or whether you have reached your destination depending on where the vibrations fall. Inventor Jason Perkins, a British student, chose vibrations because he realizes that we dont’ want headphones most times, and we need our ears. Go him for figuring that out.
Now here’s where I start asking questions. Is this thing designed to account for different shapes of harness handles? They’re not uber different, but they’re different enough, at least I think so. I’ve never seen a UK guide dog harness handle.
Next on my list of drawbacks, I don’t know how I would feel about having to endure consstant vibrations. I appreciate what he’s going for, but eek. I would think my fingers would become habituated to the vibrations and not pick them up as wel. And, is there a way to quickly turn off the vibrations if I have to set the handle down for instance? I don’t think Trixie would want a sudden, unexpected back massage.
Now, assuming I can tolerate the vibrations and I can perceive them properly, how do the vibrations differentiate between you having to turn left, or cross a street and then turn left? Is a left turn a strictly left vibration, while a cross and turn is more of a forward and left vibration? I found a YouTube video of someone using it, and it told me some stuff, but I sort of wanted to hear more from her than him. What he said was useful, but I wanted her to describe to me what the vibrations felt like, etc.
Next, where is the map data acquired from? It says existing sat-navs, but even they need map data I’m sure.
Also, does it give you the opportunity to reroute? What if your shortest route possible is obscured by construction? Could it recalculate?
Here’s another big question. How much does this little vibrating gizmo cost? I hope the cost is dramatically less than the ones where you can actually browse routes and receive information about things you’re passing. Granted you can’t always hear that, but it’s nice to have it.
I have this little part of me that is afraid that blinks using this will become as blindly obedient to it as sighted folks who follow the little line…straight into the water or under a bridge that’s too low. There is a difference, to me, between being told “turn left,” and concentrating strictly on…”keep the vibrations in the centre, keep the vibrations in the centre, keep the vibrations in the centre…sploosh!” I know the dog is there too, so that should cut back on that, but to me, it sort of creates a dependence on this device. If you learn a new route with it, you will never know what streets you crossed, info that can help you get reoriented later on if need be, because you will only have vibratory feedback to tell you if you’re right or wrong. The speech-enabled GPS devices would at least tell you what streets you’re crossing, so you could memorize them and then go out without the GPS later if this becomes a regular destination. But on the plus side, deafblind travellers could use this no problem! see, I’m completely torn. On second thought, if a deafblind traveler has a significant speech impediment, Peepo may learn to fly out of frustration.
Peepo: Where would you like to go?
Deafblind person: Wal-Mart.
Peepo: Wash car?
Deafblind person: Wal-mart!
Deafblind person: Aarg!
Peepo: the bar?
I know some of those are silly, but you get my drift. So here comes another question. do you train Peepo to your voice?
Finally, where oh where can you pick one of these up? They say it’s patented in the U.S…but is anyone selling it? Perhaps it’s not ready for market yet.
Maybe I have a new thing to research…find the inventor of this neat little sucker and see if I can be a beta tester! I probably can’t, but one can dream.