Microsoft’s Next Wearable is ‘Alice Band’ That Helps the Visually Impaired
Microsoft's Joe Belfiore.Reuters

Microsoft has shown it is not afraid to try something differnet, recenlty announcing wireless charging pants and making its personal smartphone assistant Cortana a digital Paul the Octopus, and now the company is working on a wearable for the visually impaired.

According to a Sunday Times report, Microsoft is testing a prototype of a new wearable called 'Alice Band' that functions by detecting the presence of surrounding objects, via customised sensors.

These sensors process and transmit information in the form of audio signals to an earpiece that users wear.

For instance, if a user wearing Microsoft's Alice Band comes across a tree, the wearable will inform the user that it is a tree that he/she is currently looking at.

For the wearable to work, specialised sensors need to be installed on objects/points which 'bounce off' real-world information to the sensors within Microsoft's wearable that convert these details into audio signals for users.

Microsoft's Alice Band, once officially launched, should help people with visual impairments perform vital tasks such as navigating staircases, elevators and even escalators.

However, Microsoft's initiative is still in the research and prototype development phase, and is unlikely to get a commercial launch anytime in the near future.

Microsoft is currently testing the Alice Band in the United Kingdom (in Reading), with a small group of volunteers, states UberGizmo.

The company has not made public any detail about the Alice Band project, such as technical specifications.

Alice Band is a part of another large initiative called Cities Unlocked that is jointly undertaken by Microsoft and the UK-based Guide Dogs (an organisation involved in the welfare of the visually impaired).

Microsoft's Alice Band is a sensible and novel initiative by Microsoft. However, with a commercial launch not expected soon, Google can rest assured that its Glass project will not face immediate competition from significant players.

Microsoft is also rumoured to be working on a smartwatch, and a smart fitness band that are expected to witness commercial launches shortly.