Microsoft believes that “technology is a tool for all people”, and is proving this by consistently developing new technologies with the aim of easing the day-to-day struggles that their disabled audience face.
While the company’s existing “Soundscape” research project uses innovative audio-based technology to communicate to a person their surroundings, Microsoft is now working on a similar design but using an Ambient scanner.
The sensor, which is worn around the user’s neck, uses both cameras and microphones to gather data on the environment.
The disclosed technology is a spatial output device consisting of two electronic housings electrically connected via a flexible electronic connector. The two electronics housings are weighted to maintain a balanced position of the flexible connector against a carrier. The spatial output device has at least one input sensor attached to one of the two electronics housings and an on-board processor attached to one of the two electronics housings. The input sensor is configured to receive monocular inputs. The on-board processor is configured to process the monocular input to produce a spatial output, the spatial output providing at least two-dimensional information.
Thanks to the orientable camera, users can receive specific descriptions of the object in front of them, and where it’s located in space. Now, information can also be relayed back to the user haptically via vibration- so it’s also useful to people who are hard of hearing.
Collecting large amounts of data to understand a user’s environment through a variety of sensors can improve mixed-reality experiences and / or improve the accuracy of directions or spatial information within an environment. Current portable devices may have limited functionality. Some portable devices can be limited to simple audio and video recording without the ability to process the information on the device.
While the disabled community may appreciate this technology, it could also be useful to businesses who wish to maximise time efficiency. The device could be used to effortlessly search for specific items in a large warehouse- or even better, it could potentially create related job opportunities for those who are hard of sight or hearing. Once AI algorithms are integrated into the device, the possibilities will become endless.