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Learn how you can make your city more inclusive at SCEWC

By Amos Miller, Product Strategist | Microsoft AI and Research on October 13, 2016

Filed under Microsoft CityNext

After my daughter was born, I wanted to be able to confidently take her out into the world to do things like go to the cinema. Too often for people who are visually impaired like me, it can be a daunting and nerve-wracking experience to navigate your way through an urban environment.

At the time, I was a trustee on the board of Guide Dogs in the U.K.—an organization that focuses on helping people with sight loss enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else. Along with some of my Microsoft colleagues, I started collaborating with Guide Dogs to better understand the role that technology can play in enabling independent mobility for people who are visually impaired.

Cities Unlocked is a program that came together through the collaboration between Microsoft and Guide Dogs. Our research has led to an in-depth understanding of the challenges people with sight loss face when out and about in cities. The research program has grown to include a number of partners that have helped us develop prototypes of technology that could eventually help unlock cities for everyone—not just the visually impaired.

The prototypes help people move through their environment more confidently using augmented reality with audio. For instance, I can hear a cue through a headset that a curb, or a crossing, or a bench or a gate is a few steps ahead and the theater showing the movie my daughter wants to see is to my left. It essentially helps people paint a picture of their surroundings with sound.

You can experience the technology for yourself and imagine how it could help your city be more inclusive at Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC) November 14-17 in Barcelona, Spain. For example, people with disabilities or those who don’t speak the local language could use sound-based technology to improve the way they experience your city.

At the Expo, we’re teaming up with ONCE’, an organization in Spain that has built up a system of social benefits for the visually impaired. Our Cities Unlocked demo area will also include a set of technologies that ONCE’ has developed through its Ilunion organization to improve experiences in indoor spaces and on transportation systems for people with sight loss.

Read about a technology news editor’s experience trying out a Cities Unlocked prototype in this article in The Telegraph. And watch videos to see soundscape technology in action in this Microsoft News Center UK article.

Cities Unlocked is just one example of our deep commitment at Microsoft to help cities become more digitally inclusive through our CityNext initiative. We also support the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict) and its Defining Accessible Smart Cities Initiative.

Empowering people with technology to achieve more of the things they want in life is at the core of our mission—and for me and my daughter, it’s personal.

Stay tuned

Keep an eye out for upcoming blogs previewing CityNext solutions that will be showcased at SCEWC.

Meantime, check out our event page for up-to-date details on what Microsoft and our partners are doing at the Expo, to sign up for our pre-day event, and to request a one-on-one meeting with one of our subject matter experts.

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