GPS apps are great, but when they say you’ve arrived, you can all but guarantee that you totally haven’t arrived. You’re usually in the middle of a parking lot or standing on a sidewalk kinda sorta closeish but not nearly close enough to what you’re looking for with little or no idea of what to do next. Carin and I and countless other blind folks have this experience all the time, and when it happens, there isn’t a whole lot we can do. Basically we’re limited to either wandering around hoping we’ll get lucky and stumble into the jackpot, wandering around until somebody shows up to save our blind ass or standing still in the safest/most visible spot we can find until somebody shows up to save our blind ass. And as we’re weighing those few options, watching the seconds and often minutes tick bye, inevitably our thoughts at some point turn to goddammit, if only this app could tell us that what we’re looking for is around the second bend up there and just past the mailbox and garbage cans all of this could be avoided.
As long as there has been GPS systems, this has been a problem. And believe me, it can be frustrating as all hell especially when you’re rushing to make an appointment or it’s a day like today when it’s absolutely pissing down rain. But if Raizlabs and the Perkins School for the Blind are successful, that might start becoming a thing of the past. Armed with a $750000 grant from Google, they’re aiming to finally be the lifesaving hero geniuses who figure out how to bring the long sought after it’s over there, chief technology to the world.
With the new app, Becker says, “I’m going to have clues that will actually take me to the bus stop and give me details about how I’m most likely going to find that bus stop.”
For example, she says, “as I’m walking along, I may find a step and a pole. And to the left of that is where I’m going to find the bus stop.”
When you’re at a bus stop, you could look around and find a clue: a step, a mailbox, a pole. Then you’d log it into the app.
It’s a good deed. And Raizlabs may also make it a game, with prizes.
If all goes well, they’re hoping to have something to release to the public in early 2017.
Of course whatever they come up with is only going to be as good as the data it contains, so I’m hoping they have plans to license the technology to other providers to get it into as many hands as possible. Time will tell where this goes, but for now it’s certainly something to look forward to.