I’m amazed every time I see blind people walking around on their own using only a cane to guide them. But what if there was also a way to make the sight-impaired “see” the surrounding geography? That’s the idea behind Robert Richter’s concept device, plan.b. Plan.b is a digital device that applies a simplified version of the Braille system, making tactile versions of maps.
In addition to the tactile feedback, the user can also press the dots and plan.b will provide spoken information about the corresponding area. Of all the features of plan.b I think this is the most helpful one, but also the most difficult to implement. As you can see in the images below, the device would be fairly small, but for practical reasons the map is zoomed in, i.e. it shows the user’s immediate surroundings. This means that there has to be a lot of specific information encoded into the device, like mentioning the names of specific buildings or even geographic features, as opposed to just mentioning streets or landmarks. That’s a lot of work that’s way beyond the device itself.
Richter designed it with the help of two blind people, but even he himself admits that even if plan.b was made into a real device it still wouldn’t replace walking sticks or the heightened hearing that blind people often acquire. But overall I think plan.b is a great idea, simple and straightforward. What do you think?