Monday, 27 April 2009
Sat Nav for Guide Dogs
A interesting link that passed me by until today is http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2009/04/guide_dogs_get_sat_nav.html
It's a story about how a product design student has designed a sat nav, called Peepo, that a blind person can speak a destination into, then clip a device onto the guide dog harness which vibrates on the fingertips to indicate which way to steer the dog.
The Ouch article links to a Sun newspaper article, which (as I have come to expect from the Sun when it comes to blindness) gets the wrong idea and states in the first paragraph "A revolutionary sat nav that directs guide dogs for blind people has been invented by a British boffin."
It then goes on to say how the device will vibrate on the left or the right side, telling the handler which way to turn, to be fair - but as any guide dog owner will know, YOU tell the DOG where to turn left or right, not the other way around as the first paragraph would imply. Of course, Fido may well know the route already and pre-empt you, but surely that isn't what a sat nav is aimed at. If you knew the route already, you wouldn't need a sat nav, would you ?
The other amusing Sun comment in the article is that the inventor says that ordinary sat navs are dangerous for blind people as they can step into traffic. Not wishing to come across as harsh towards this attitude but, hello ??? Isn't that what guide dogs are trained to prevent by stopping at curbs ? And how does this special sat nav prevent that - does it have all the kerbs in the world programmed in as points of interest, telling you when you're approaching one ? Enquiring minds want to know.
My better half uses a Trekker sat nav to take us places we don't already know, which is admittedly more expensive at 1300 notes as opposed to the proposed 500 of the Peepo, but it works just fine. It's alot of faffing about to input routes via the tactile keypad though so the voice control of the initial destination of this appeals. However it (the Trekker) does tell you where you are by letting you know the names of the roads. Although the Peepo gives a steady pulse of vibration to indicate you are on route, what happens if you get diverted off route for some reason ?
I don't want to come across as dismissive to the concept, because I'm not - all mobility enhancements are a goer for me - but other than being voice activated and not actually speaking directions to you (useful in busy areas indeed), I wonder how much of an improvement this is on what is available already at a similar price (the Trekker Breeze, for example).
I'd love to get my hands on one and find out !