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According to reports, Microsoft is carrying out secret tests on a new wearable product for the blind and visually impaired. The device, which has been described by The Sunday Times as looking like an Alice band, is expected to help people by describing their surroundings to them.

It is currently being tested on eight people in Reading, UK, to help then navigate through urban areas, including helping with stairs, using services at banks and shops and navigating the ticket barriers at Reading train station.

Few detail have been released about the device as yet and nothing has been confirmed by Microsoft but it is believed that the band bounces signals of objects and then when the sensor read the returned information it is able to describe the surroundings to the user via an earpiece. It can describe the surrounding area, buildings and even the food sitting in front of them.

Although it is a wearable product, the Microsoft band is not designed to rival Google Glass. This is a UK Government-backed project, researched by Future Cities Catapult and it is not a commercial development so is unlikely to go on general sale. Microsoft have been working with both Future Cities and Guide Dogs for the Blind on the project and are now just waiting for the results to come back from the trial.

Future Cities said: “Our Catapult is all about urban innovation. In particular, we’re focused squarely on the challenge of urban integration — how cities can take a more joined-up approach to the way they plan and operate. To improve quality of life, strengthen their economy and protect the environment.”

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