Google has announced several new accessibility features coming to its products, including Google Maps, that will help blind and visually impaired users better navigate their surroundings. The most notable new addition is an augmented reality (AR) feature exclusive to iPhones that lets users orient themselves using their camera and AI-powered visual descriptions.
Using Camera and AI to Orient One’s Surroundings
The new Lens feature in Google Maps, previously known as “Search with Live View,” will now leverage a visually impaired user’s iPhone camera and artificial intelligence to describe nearby places of interest. After capturing images of the user’s surroundings, Google Maps will use screen reader technology to speak the names and types of attractions it recognizes, like restaurants, transit stations, and ATMs, along with their proximity to the user’s location.
This should pair well with Google Maps’ existing voice-guided navigation for blind users to provide enhanced awareness of one’s immediate surroundings in addition to navigational assistance.
Rolling Out First to iPhone Users
The Lens visual search capability will start rolling out to iPhone users this week, providing them early access before Android users, who will gain access later this year. Expanding accessibility has been a priority for Google Maps, with previous launches of detailed voice guidance and wheelchair-accessible routes. In addition, you can also read an article on- 10 Best Augmented Reality Apps for Android to Explore the World in a New Way
Other Accessibility Improvements Coming to Google Maps
Along with the visual search tool, Google announced some additional accessibility-focused improvements coming to Maps. Businesses will now be able to identify themselves as part of a specific community, such as LGBTQ+ owned, to help users find inclusive locales. Selecting wheelchair-accessible routes will now be an option for pedestrians to avoid stairs and steep hills. Google is also adding larger shortcut icons and wheelchair routing for Google Assistant and Android Auto.
Google’s Continued Effort to Make Maps Usable for All
With Google Maps being one of the most popular navigation apps worldwide, increasing its accessibility for visually impaired and blind users is key. This latest update with iPhone’s exclusive early access to Lens-powered visual descriptions demonstrates Google’s commitment to refining Maps as a valuable tool for users of all abilities. The improvements help remove barriers to make navigating the world easier and more enjoyable for everyone.
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