David Furukawa and Chris Webb created Foresight Augmented Reality (FAR), a company that utilizes Bluetooth technology to provide accurate information about the user’s environment focusing not only on navigation but context.
Bluetooth beacons are devices placed around the tangible world, the assistive application can communicate with one’s smartphone and provide them with information tailored to their location. For instance, if a beacon is placed in a winery, it can display the menu, inform the user about specials and provide the winery's hours of operation.
“There are a lot of different applications available and adaptive technology out there that provide navigation services to people with disabilities,” Furukawa said. These applications use point-to-point navigation or GPS navigation.
“They say turn left here, turn right here,” said Furukawa. “But it doesn’t give you [the] context of what’s actually around you.”
Webb says this context is important because people use landmarks to create mental maps of their environment. “We’re using our technology to give that same information to people with disabilities through audio prompts,” Webb said. “So, they can build their own mental map in their head and use their own navigation skills and their mobility skills to get around.”
Webb and Furukawa have designed their business model around making this service an affordable solution. The app itself is free and beacons, along with a subscription to the FAR networks, are priced reasonably for businesses, universities, and governments, according to Webb.
“What we’re finding is that really every business wants to help,” Webb said. “They all want to help people with disabilities, but they don’t see a lot of them. And we have to explain that a lot of them don’t get out because they don’t have technologies like this that will make an environment accommodating to them,” he says.
FAR has been updating and improving the app based on user feedback. The FAR app is available for IOS and Android. Beacons have been installed in eight states and the UK.
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