March 11, 2015

Google Maps Aims to Create the Perfect Navigation System

Photo from Google Ability Project.

By Nick K.

Much of the internet has placed a major focus on ensuring that both mobile and desktop website versions are optimized for the best possible user experience. However, one area of optimization that most websites seem to forget is serving to disabled web-users.  With a seemingly endless amount of advances in technology, you would think that there’d be a breakthrough somewhere for users with disabilities. As it turns out, Google might be achieving just that.

Creator Mathieu Lacaze has paired up with Google Maps to create a platform called the Google Ability Project. Ability, currently a conceptual prototype, is designed to improve navigation systems for the visually-impaired. According to PSFK, Ability uses Google Maps for its maps interface.

The platform will be accessible across multiple devices for users with either Android or Apple products.

Let’s See the Difference

Google Ability is the manifestation of an idea by Mathieu Lacaze’s vision of creating an alternative navigation system for those who cannot see. Ability focuses on human senses to help visually-impaired users find their way with greater ease. The platform utilizes senses of sound and touch, as well as a basic maps interface. Ability uses audio prompts, voice commands, phone vibrations, 1-touch options and alerts to inform the user of obstructions. Ability also has designed navigation tools that can be used indoors and outdoors to deliver accurate navigability, no matter where the user is.

Look at How it Works

Google Ability is a very creative and complex navigation platform. Its magic works through a 3-step process.  
  1. The data is collected from the surrounding areas.
  2. The platform translates the data into an easily understandable method for prompts and responses for the visually-impaired users.
  3. The data then has to transfer to the appropriate device.

Photo from Google Ability Project.

In addition, Ability also includes live transportation information about bus and trains schedules, as well as construction information. The developers have also created a custom, easily navigable maps interface, which has live typographical data with a grading system, depending on how rough the terrain is. This was done to create the most accessible traveling method possible.

The Future is in Sight

Google Ability is still in development, and has only been tested and operated in London. So it might be a while before we could see Ability in action here in the United States. However, waiting might be a better option because Google Ability has announced their latest project called Tango, which is smartphone equipped with a 3D imaging camera that scans the surrounding environment. Google then took the platform one step further by upgrading Tango to Batango, which sends audio alerts of obstacles and obstructions to users.

Development seems to be gaining plenty of headway, so it will be quite interesting to see how this new product blossoms into something ever greater than before. If you would like to see it in action check out Google Ability’s Project website.

What are your thoughts about Google Ability? Do you think it will provide a big difference for visually-impaired users? Feel free to leave a comment below. 

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