Startup SightCompass helps the visually impaired navigate their surroundings
The tech world is constantly evolving and is creating more opportunities for those with disabilities. SightCompass is a revolutionary new tool and app for the visually impaired that details surrounding environments, restaurants, public bathroom, etc. through audio. The app is accessible for people blindness, vision loss, dyslexia, anxiety disorders, hard of hearing, learning challenges. This app was officially launched in Montreal Canada in October at TechnoVision. They are currently in beta testing in several locations around Arizona. I spoke to Steve Lippert, CEO of SightCompass about this assistive app.
How did you get started with SightCompass?
SightCompass was founded in 2011 with the goal to revolutionize the assistive technologies field and to bring much needed accessibility to those with significant vision loss and blindness. SightCompass now has a dedicated passion to create an accessible world for anyone with vision loss as well as many other disabilities. Our desire to create an assistive technology designed to provide extreme detail relating to one’s current environment stemmed from the idea of making restrooms accessible for those living with blindness.
What are the basic features installed on SightCompass?
SightCompass is a powerful tool used to broadcast and receive information relating to one’s current environment. This information can include the description of a room, the layout of buttons on a television remote control, directions for operating fixtures in a restroom and even information about items on a restaurant menu. The information that SightCompass can offer is nearly endless. This information is obtained by using a free app on a Bluetooth 4.0 enabled smartphone.
Upon opening the app, a list of Sites will begin to appear as the SightCompass Beacons, which contain the information, are located. By using a mobile screen-reader such as VoiceOver the user will have access to the information via audio output. This means that all of the information that the SightCompass Beacon is broadcasting is essentially read out loud to the end-user. The SightCompass network is ideal for persons with blindness, vision loss, dyslexia, anxiety disorders, hard of hearing, learning challenges and with a Bluetooth Braille display Deaf-Blind. (Ex. iPhone 4s or newer, iPad Mini/iPad 3 or newer. Coming soon – Droid, Windows mobile, PC, Mac and more).
How else is your technology helping those with visual impairment?
This technology is now changing the way that people experience their world. Places that were once difficult to explore and enjoy are now completely embraced and discovered by those who are utilizing the SightCompass app and SightCompass Beacon technology. This technology will enable many intelligent individuals to become fully self-sufficient in working environments and give them the ability to overcome some of the hurdles associated with living with a disability.
What type of response have you received from those who have used the app?
Everyone that has experienced the app has been amazed at the level of accessibility this technology brings to any space. We’ve experienced everything from blind individuals crying with excitement because they are now able to visualize their environment as if they were seeing it with their own eyes, to a deaf-blind gentleman shaking out of pure excitement.
Have you sought any funding to grow the company?
SightCompass has been fully funded by the founding partners and is not seeking outside funding.
How can our readers access the app?
The App is currently available for download for free in the Apple App Store and will soon be available on Android via Google Play. As new places are added to the SightCompass network, we will keep users updated via social media and our website.
What’s next for SightCompass?
We are currently focused on getting rapid adoption of the technology in the US and Canada so that people can really start benefiting from this life changing tool. Locally, we recently installed SightCompass in the Civic Center, Arizona State University, and the Foundation for Blind Children. Institutions like these have never before relied on technology this advanced and have never been truly accessible for all. We are really pushing to help businesses see how inexpensive and simple it is to make their establishments fully accessible. Not only will they see increased business and traffic, but everyone using the App…even ones without disabilities will have an improved experience. This technology is a true “win win” for any business.