Guide Dogs Victoria (GDV) is a charity that provides vital support for Victorians with low vision or blindness to become active and involved members of the community. Their goal is to maximise the independence of their clients through a wide range of community services, training, and education.
In its 60th year and known for its history of advancements in dog breeding, the organization is focusing now on digital innovation to evolve its services into the future.
Our aim is to find new ways to improve the lives of blind and low vision people. Our guide dog services represent only 30 percent of what we do, so digital innovation has a big role to play in the other ways we can provide support.
People with low vision and blindness face daily challenges, including navigating busy intersections, where they can easily veer outside of the safe crossing zone. This can significantly restrict their ability to travel independently. Thoughtworks partnered with GDV to observe and understand the challenges and needs of their clients, before exploring a number of potential prototypes that could be developed to address this issue.
Together we designed and built four prototypes, aimed at helping users to ‘line-up’ while preparing to cross the road, and provide feedback to help them to stay in the safe crossing zone while crossing the road. After this initial discovery phase, we tested each solution with real users and narrowed our focus to the most user-friendly and technically feasible solution. Thoughtworks’ expert IoT team in China created an infrared sensor to mount on a standard white cane, which detects the white lines of the crossing, and sends feedback to an accompanying vibration module, worn on the user’s wrist.
Moving forward, GDV hopes to progress the prototype into the engineering sample phase, together with hardware partners from Shenzhen, China, in order to take the product to market.
I was really blown away by the prototype. The simplicity of the solution and the way that it addressed the problem we identified was fantastic.