I remember reading science fiction as a child and marveling at the magic of the technology of the future. My visit to the New York Worlds Fair in 1964 and a ride through Futurama II reinforced my belief in the future of technology. I always liked the idea of how advances in technology would make the things we do not only easier but also connect us all in a way we had not seen before. The Internet is one of those science fiction/Futurama promises come to life and the almost daily advances in science makes me happy to be alive right now.
I like how as technology advances new opportunities for new ways to do common and not so common tasks reveal themselves.
I am sure all of you are familiar with guide dogs, also known as seeing eye dogs. Trained to guide a visually impaired person the dog gives that person something they would not have otherwise, freedom.
An even more adorable guide animal the guide horse is making headway in opening doors for the visually impaired, sneakers and all.
But I have an idea that would give the visually impaired even more freedom and abilities that no guide animal could offer.
Virtual Guide People
Now bear with me for a second. We have the technology to remotely operate an airplane like the U.S. military’s Predator that is in fact controlled by “pilots” thousands of miles away. This technology is basically an RC model plane with a camera, GPS and teeth.
Now from this system take the camera, a GPS device, and a two way communication system and you have the makings of a Virtual Guide System. Hey that sounds a lot like a cell phone!
That’s right we already have the technology in place to create a Virtual Guide system! Those of us with decent vision can use the cell phone to help guide us to a location with the GPS device and the camera and two way communication is just a plus.
But how can we utilize this existing system for a visually impaired person? Broadband access relaying realtime video and tracking via GPS to a real live person helping guide the visually impaired person. Who could you enlist to be that virtual guide? Enter Amazon’s Mechanical Turk the mechanical turk is a system where one task is broken up into smaller tasks that can then be distributed to many hands, thus making the correct completion of the task much more likely. Using that same model there are thousands of people if not hundreds of thousands of people online that already that have the necessary hardware (a computer) high speed access and the desire to help others. Any one of us could sign on to a Virtual Guide System and offer our vision to someone who needs to where they are going.
Of course this is not limited to just the visually impaired. How about the fashion challenged? Lets say you are the kind of person that has trouble walking out of a clothing store with something that vaguely resembles a sense of fashion? Enter the Virtual Fashion Guide, someone you can trust to tell you the truth about that green shirt you are about to purchase. Try on a new dress and send a video of it to your Virtual Fashion Guide and know you’ve chosen the right thing.
None of this would be possible without the current technology and it would be nice to see someone walking done the street confident that even though they can not see a thing they have have a virtual arm to guide them wherever they want.