Navigation tool for the visually impaired wins iF Design Award

Press Release published by Cambridge Consultants

‘Amelie’ reimagines the experience of travelling on public transport without sight

Breakthrough innovation specialist Cambridge Consultants today announced the award of its fifth iF Design Award. The award was for Amelie, a smart navigation tool for the visually impaired, which sets out to improve their daily life by guiding and supporting them when using public transport. This latest award demonstrates Cambridge Consultants’ growing and global reputation in design innovation.

The visually impaired rely heavily on public transport for their independence, but the experience of using it is often challenging. For example, it may be difficult to know which bus to get on, where to sit and when to get off. Amelie is a friendly assistant that ‘sees’ for users, allowing them to relax and enjoy their journey. Users set their destination by directly instructing or asking Amelie. Amelie then provides audio navigation to locate the appropriate bus stop and helps users identify the correct bus as it approaches the stop. Once on the bus, users are guided to a vacant seat. During the journey, Amelie discreetly provides information about the journey and enriches the experience by describing the current scene, perhaps by describing the people the user is sitting near, adding context and richness. Once the bus has arrived at the desired destination, Amelie lets the users know they’ve reached their destination.

Cambridge Consultants developed Amelie in partnership with Cam Sight, a Cambridge, UK-based charity that supports people of all ages living with low vision and blindness to live the lives they choose. Amelie was designed using input from intended users. Its design and function reflect an understanding of the daily lives of the visually impaired and the challenges they face when using public transport. The result is a device that’s easy to use and affordable, unlike most assistive products. Amelie’s app takes into consideration the user’s impaired vision and provides information by combining audio and visual feedback. As Amelie is aware of the user’s location, it enhances the journey experience by sharing information such as the local weather, news and traffic.

Amelie uses state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms to recognize hundreds of common objects, making it capable of assisting the user in a variety of daily activities beyond public transportation. Combining these capabilities with location awareness means Amelie can help the user in daily activities, such as socializing and shopping, allowing the user to live life with increased confidence.

Max Curzi, Senior Engineer at Cambridge Consultants, commented: "The goal of Amelie was to create a situation-aware assistant that can pro-actively guide a person with a visual impairment as they carry out day to day activities, while enriching their perception of the environment. Working with Cam Sight emphasized the central importance of user experience and design for usability. Computer vision and artificial intelligence are increasingly prevalent and can now be used in everyday products to describe the content of pictures or video. Text-to-speech and speech-to-text conversions are near instantaneous. Soon, we’ll be able to describe complex scenes in front of camera lenses in real time. But even with access to such amazing technology, the user’s needs must be placed at the core of the design process in order to make the greatest impact on the lives of people with a visual impairment.”

Flóra Raffai, Chief Executive of Cam Sight, added: “We have been delighted to work with Cambridge Consultants on the Amelie project. Navigating public transport can be a significant challenge for people living with low vision and blindness, and Amelie could be a real help to our members in Cambridgeshire and beyond.”

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