If you live in London you may recognise the drone robots that Dominos Pizza have been using to deliver pizzas developed by Starship Technologies. Over time it is highly likely that these types of robots are going to become ubiquitous. In order to get ahead of any problems visually impaired people may have, the company has been researching the impact delivery drones have on guide dogs. Starship Technologies has partnered with Guide Dogs in Milton Keynes to undertake the research.
Studying guide dog reaction to drones
As part of the study, Guide Dogs along with either their owners or trainers were deliberately placed in situations where they would encounter robots on pavements. A number of scenarios were experimented with including having the guide dogs encounter the robots head on, from behind, heading towards one another at road crossings and overtaking. Fortunately, the study found that all the guide dogs that participated in the study reacted very calmly, mainly stopping before the robots approached and did not have any adverse reactions.
Training new recruits
Guide Dogs will use the results of the study to train their next batch of recruits and encourage them to treat drones as if they were any other type of obstacle they meet on the pavement. Starship Technologies says it intends to expand the scope of its study to see how its drones will impact the entire spectrum of people with visual impairments. Guide Dogs spokesperson John Welsman says that technology constantly evolves and is reshaping our environment and lifestyles. This means it is important for Guide Dogs to lead the way in helping shape the future for visually impaired people.
Guide Dogs has partnered with tech companies in the past
This is not the first time Guide Dogs has partnered with a tech company to find out how innovation will affect the visually impaired. In the past the organisation teamed up with Microsoft to test its Soundscape app which helps visually impaired people to navigate using their smartphone through 3D audio cues. All of this is part of Guide Dogs Cities Unlocked Project which is tasked with understanding how changing cities will impact the visually impaired.
Technology for all members of society
Technology companies should be aware that when they design products, those products should work for all members of society. Lex Bayer who leads Starship Technologies says his company believes that drone deliveries will be able to play an important role supporting every individual within communities. They will make everyone’s life more convenient including those who are visually impaired. Mr Bayer says the company’s top priority is working seamlessly alongside residents and enhancing its services by partnering with organisations such as Guide Dogs.