According to The Asahi Shimbun, Shimizu Corp. and IBM Japan Ltd. jointly developed a smartphone app to help visually impaired people navigate stairs, corridors, doors and other obstacles in buildings and underground shopping complexes.
They anticipate making the technology commercially available by 2018.
The system receives location and other information from radio beacons and converts it into audio data through an IBM-developed smartphone app.
Shimizu, a leading general contractor, said it will encourage public facilities, medical centres and commercial complexes to introduce the system so that people with impaired vision can move around more easily.
IBM said it plans to offer the service in a number of languages. Chieko Asakawa, a senior IBM researcher who herself is visually impaired, is part of the project.
To get started, users first need to register their destination. The app then gives instructions on which direction to take, such as “go right, in a two o'clock direction.”
If the number of steps, size of handrails and other data are inputted in advance, the system will tell the user such things as “there is a mat in front of the entrance” and “the stairway is straight and has 34 steps.”
Shimizu plans to call on operators of new buildings as well as owners of existing structures to install beacons and other necessary accessories.
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