Google.org, the search giant’s charitable arm, has invested $1 million (£660,000) in a nonprofit startup called Wayfindr, which has developed smartphone technology that can help to guide people through cities.
Wayfindr’s marketing and communications lead Katherine Payne made the announcement on the company blog yesterday, where she also revealed that the company is in the midst of a trial with London Underground at Euston Station.
“We are currently testing our prototype app with blind and partially sighted people in London Euston station,” wrote Payne. “Once they have selected their destination, they are guided via audio directions triggered by signals from [Bluetooth] beacons installed throughout the station.”
The Euston station trial, which will run until the end of January, follows a successful trial at Pimlico station, which ended earlier this year.
David Waboso, capital programmes director for London Underground added: “Our trial at Euston is really putting the system through its paces, to see whether it can fulfil its promise at one of London’s busiest Tube stations.”
Google.org awarded the grant to Wayfindr through the Royal London Society for the Blind (RLSB). The money is being allocated through the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities program, which aims to find technology products and services that can help people living with disabilities.
In addition to supporting the London Underground project, Wayfindr said the grant will help it to “accelerate” its work over the next three years, adding that it plans to run similar trials in other urban settings, including shopping centres and hospitals.
RLSB chief executive and Wayfindr chair, Dr Tom Pey said: “What makes Wayfindr so strong is the focus on smartphones, meaning blind people don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on different gadgets — they have everything they need in their pockets.”