University Of Michigan Students Use Bluetooth To Help Blind And Seeing Pedestrians Roam Cities

October 14, 2008

A mobile computer that reads wireless transmitters, allowing blind people to navigate a city, could serve seeing pedestrians as well, students at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor say.

The students have developed Talking Points, an urban-orientation system, to give users context about their surroundings.

"If it caught on, this would be an effective way to tag the whole world," Jason Stewart, a master's student at Ann Arbor, said in a written statement. "Anyone with a reader could use it to find out more information about where they are."

The system's mobile computers, about the size of paperback books, read Bluetooth tags - on city landmarks and other points of interest - and convey information visually or aloud. Members of the Talking Points community can edit that information, which is stored in an online database.

The project is similar to others - including one at Carnegie Mellon University - but Michigan says its use of Bluetooth, voice-command software, and user-generated content sets Talking Points apart. -Sara Lipka

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