Audio Reality: Bluetooth for the Blind
The Register has a neat little article about the Talking Points system, aimed at describing environments for the blind. The system, developed at the University of Michigan, revolves around a series of bluetooth beacons, each of which sends out a pre-programmed audio message to anyone in range.
The idea is that simple bluetooth beacons, probably in "plugtop" format, could be sold for less than $20. The beacon would have a unique serial number, which would be the only information it transmitted.
The purchaser of a beacon would then be able to log into a website and input information referenced to the beacon number. This could be an advert for a business, a safety warning, a street or building name - anything. Municipal authorities, transit operators and so on could use the devices in large numbers. This being the modern day, there would probably also be user-generated content too.
Talking Points users would need a bluetooth device which also had wireless internet - a smartphone, UMPC, mini-laptop or a specialised Talking Points receiver. The device would be connected to an earpiece, either bluetooth or wired. When the device software detected a Talking Points beacon, it would look up the information on the internet and play it back through the earpiece. You'd be able to choose which kinds of beacon your system would respond to, and whether or not you wanted the user-generated comments as well as the official tags.
For the sighted community, the system could give passersby a peek at the specials or sales inside a business. It could offer on-the-go access to customer reviews.
The original version of this project used RFID, but the ubiquity of Bluetooth made that technology more expedient as a platform.
"If it caught on, this would be an effective way to tag the whole world," said Jason Stewart, a master's student in the School of Information who is involved in the project. "Anyone with a reader could use it to find out more information about where they are."