Microsoft working on new wearable to help the blind

Saqib Shah
July 15, 2014

You might have read reports of Microsoft working on a new wearable wrist band or smartwatch in recent months. Well, it turns out that the company is working on not one but two new wearables.

The newest device to be associated with the company is a wearable band that is worn around the head to help blind people navigate their surroundings.

According to The Sunday Times, the ‘Alice band’ as it is known, “works by bouncing information from sensors mounted on any location – such as buildings or train carriages – to a receiver in the head band.

It is currently being tested in the UK town of Reading, where blind people are using it to navigate around the staircases, escalators and ticket barriers at Reading station and in order to use services at local banks and shops.

Conflicting reports are claiming that this is definitely not Microsoft’s answer to Google Glass, as reported by The Sunday Times. It certainly doesn’t sound like Glass either, which has a much broader commercial appeal.

The Alice band is pat of the UK government-backed Future Cities Catapult initiative. The Microsoft wearable comprises one of seven catapult’s, with the manufacturer collaborating with Guide Dogs for the Blind on the device.

The aim of the Future Cities initiative is to develop world-leading innovations in specialist areas. It has seen a £1 billion investment over the course of five years.

The Alice band is receiving further publicity this week, as Queen Elizabeth is due to visit Reading on Thursday to see it in action.

Few details have emerged about the Alice band since it was demonstrated in a Guide Dogs’ video, back in 2012. Check out the clip below:

While the Alice band may never see a commercial release, it is the first wearable to be developed by Microsoft to see the light of day.

Source 1 | 2

About the Author

Saqib Shah

Tech/gaming journalist for What Mobile magazine and website. Interests include film, digital media and foreign affairs.

Share this article