Blindsquare: App Uses Foursquare Data to Help the Blind Navigate Streets
The 20 million+ people on Foursquare have created an incredibly detailed crowdsourced directory. BlindSquare is a new app that’s making use of Foursquare’s 2 billion check-ins worldwide to help blind pedestrians find locations on foot or while using public transportation.
BlindSquare integrates Foursquare data with Apple’s nativeVoiceOver technology to create a location-based virtual map through sound. When the app is enabled, it reads addresses, street names and surrounding locations aloud. Directions are available on demand.
“Basically it speaks what’s around you and if you want to go somewhere it will give guidance,” Finland-based app creator Ilkka Pirttimaa tells Mashable. ”When they travel on a bus, they don’t normally know where to get of. Now, they can hear surroundings and even street crossings when [the] bus is making a turn.”
BlindSquare was conceptualized and created in six months. Pirttimaa calls it a mashup of GPS technology, speech synthesis, crowdsourced data through Foursquare and augmented reality with audio.
“You launch the app whenever you need assistance,” he says. “If blind person is in the area, which she doesn’t know, BlindSquare will help to ‘draw a map’ with information about streets and crossings and services around you.”
The technology was built to help blind individuals in unfamiliar areas. BlindSquare draws a map of information about surrounding streets, crossings and services nearby. Categories within the app include arts and entertainment, colleges, food, great outdoors, nightlife spots, residences, shops and travel.
Foursquare map points show up ranked by number of check-ins.
“BlindSquare reports the most popular restaurants, cafes, etc.,” he says. ”So, it’s not just listing places around. BlindSquare helps you to make sense what’s around you.”
Pirttimaa tested the app with blind individuals in Finland, the U.S. and Australia. One of the volunteers who tested the app used an iControlPad bluetooth gaming control to navigate within the app. The BlindSquare user attached the control to a guide dog’s harness.
Users can enhance the application with recommended accessories. Pirttimaa suggests using a bone conduction head set, “which leaves users’ ears open” to natural sounds. Any bluetooth-based remote can be used to control the system.
The application is available for global use or wherever Foursquare data is available. The app also utilizes data from OpenStreetMap — an wiki-map of the world that anyone can edit. The app with speech synthesis technology supports 26 languages including English, Finnish and Swedish.
The app even lets individuals who can’t see the screen check in to Foursquare. Pirttimaa says: “Blind people love Foursquare, too. It’s simple. Just shake the device and you hear where you are [at] an address, or nearest crossing. If you are at some Foursquare place, you can re-shake to check in.”
For more about the BlindSquare app, here’s the user guide provided by Pirttimaa.