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Microsoft headset helps blind people to regain independence

Microsoft has developed a headset that works in conjunction with Windows Phone and uses GPS and other location data to connect with a network of beacons along popular urban routes, allowing visually impaired people to feel safer and more independent when walking around cities.

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The technology has also been designed by UK charity Guide Dogs, which explained that it could help the 180,000 visually impaired people who rarely or never go out to gain more freedom.

Headset developed with Microsoft Windows Phone and uses GPS

"People living with sight loss face a multitude of challenges every day that can prevent them from getting where they want to be in life," Jenny Cook, head of strategy and research at Guide Dogs, told the BBC.

"Currently, visiting a new city is often daunting, even for people with enough confidence to tackle the challenge independently. For others, who rarely leave home alone, the thought of an unfamiliar journey leaves them stressed and anxious and visiting a new area is an impossible dream."

The headset conducts sound through the jawbone, talking the wearer through a particular route. It will make a series of clicking noises to confirm that they are on the right track and can give verbal instructions such as "turn left." The headset can also provide information on nearby places of interest.

Five out of the eight people to have tested the device said that they felt safer and more confident when wearing it.

The idea for the product came from Microsoft employee Amos Miller, who wanted to enjoy more everyday experiences following the birth of his daughter.

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Some have questioned the device's usability in certain areas given that it relies on a network of street beacons, but Microsoft has claimed that most of the data "comes from GPS and annotated maps in the cloud."