Google Maps app adds more voice navigation for visually impaired

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Google is adding more detailed voice navigation options to its Google Maps app in an effort to help those with visual impairments.

The feature, which is only available in the US and Japan for the moment, is designed to give blind people greater confidence and reassurance when travelling around in unfamiliar areas alone.

Those with visual impairments worked with the tech giant to build the new Google Maps app option, providing more thorough verbal guidance, such as the distance until their next turn and the direction they are walking.

When coming up to a large intersection, users receive a warning to cross with extra caution, while a spoken notification will let them know they are being re-routed if they have accidentally gone in the wrong direction.

“With detailed voice guidance in Google Maps, my journey fades into the background and I can focus more on what I’ll do at my final destination,” said Wakana Sugiyama, a business analyst at Google, who is blind and helped develop the solution.

“This may not sound extraordinary to those with sight, but for people who are blind or have low vision, this can help us explore new and unfamiliar places.”

It is also being pitched to those without visual impairments who want a more screen-free experience on their next walking trip.

According to the World Health Organisation, at least 2.2 billion people across the world have a vision impairment or blindness, of which at least one billion could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed.

Chris Price
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