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Microsoft At It Again in the Health Arena
By: Cindy Wendland
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Today we talked about which of the five senses we would be willing to give up. My daughter suggested smell, but that affects taste and there goes chocolate. We really couldn’t think of one. So, when we hear about some technology that helps improve quality of life for someone lacking a sense, we are thrilled. Microsoft has entered the health arena in several areas, and now they are at it again to benefit the visually impaired with a headset that talks them around cities.

Imagine your life as a blind or visually impaired person. It would be scary, maybe even downright terrifying, to go to a new city or travel for enjoyment. The items on your bucket list may never get checked off. As part of a project called Cities Unlocked, Microsoft teamed up with the Guide Dogs for the Blind charity in the UK and wearable tech specialists AfterShokz. The technology uses a headset and works with a Windows phone. It uses location and navigation data along with a network of information beacons in urban locations to describe routes. It gives the user clicks, beeps, and verbal descriptions to let them know they are headed in the right direction and to describe the area. Interestingly, it has a gyroscope inside, so it knows which way the wearer is facing, and if they turn their head.

The visually impaired people that have tested the headset say it gives them a greater feeling of confidence, freedom, and safety. Everyone deserves to feel that way when they leave their home. Imagine now being able to take that trip to Hawaii and feel the sand between your toes and hear the ocean waves crashing in to shore. Imagine going to Niagara Falls and feeling the spray of the water and hearing the waterfall gushing to the bottom. Imagine being able to more confidently go wherever you want to go — even if it is just around the corner.

With Microsoft on the team we may see more people out and about with canes or guide dogs. That will be exciting. It is good for Microsoft’s branding to let people know they are working on technology to improve quality of life. That’s admirable.

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About the Author
Cindy Wendland has a background in marketing and finance. She is the creative director for an online men's health magazine, BrainBrawnBody.com, and she gets to write their leisure/travel blog. She is also a web designer helping her clients with online community engagement, websitesbywendland.com. Prior to her web years, she worked in pharmacy consulting.
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