The New "Seeing-Eye" Dog: Mobile Phone Navigation for Blind People

Posted by CorinneRamey on Nov 15, 2007

A new software project called Loadstone-GPS provides navigational assistance to blind and visually impaired individuals. The software, which is open source and can be downloaded for free, uses screen readers such as Mobile Speak and Talks and can be operated on a Nokia phone with the S60 smartphone platform.

The project, started in 2004 by two blind developers, began when one of the developers purchased a speech-enabled mobile phone and saw the potential of interfacing the phone with Bluetooth GPS. The resulting system can be used to find latitude and longitude coordinates and "points of interest" that other users have entered in Loadstone's Points Share Exchange. The develpers named the project "Loadstone" after the magnetic iron that was historically used as a magnetic compass needle.

Although other navigational programs exist for the visually impaired, Loadstone is unique in that it is available for download at no cost. "We believe that everyone has a right to independent mobility regardless of how much money someone may or may not have," says the Loadstone website. "Bluetooth GPS receivers, appropriate mobile phones, and screen readers are costly already and we do not wish to exasperate things by adding an additional financial burden."

Unlike other navigational assistance applications, Loadstone GPS does not come with any map data, due to the "exorbitant licensing fees" that data suppliers charge. Instead, Loadstone uses its own database of points that Loadstone GPS users have entered into the Loadstone Point Share Exchange. As more users enter data points, Loadstone will become available in more countries and be able to provide more detailed information.

Lodestone GPS developers hope that open source software for blind users will continue to be developed in the future. We've written about the potential of "Android for good," and Google has even offered $10 million in grants for the best Android applications, including those that benefit humanitarian relief and economic development. In an open letter about the Loadstone project Per Kirjoitti has suggestions as to how the Android system could be most useful to blind people.

It would be desirable to have a screen reader software for the Android operating system too; the best solution would be an open source development, so blind people from the poor countries have access to it as well, perhaps including the offer of an affordable, accessible and optimized mobile hardware. This device should have good tactile keys and a high-quality loudspeaker... A receiver of satellite signals, a compass and perhaps a gyro instrument could be integrated or offered in an external wearable Bluetooth box. Additional hardware as a PC keyboard, a headset, a small external control, a portable Braille display, loudspeaker or a large Display For persons with low vision could also be connected via cable or Bluetooth.

Loadstone GPS is a great first step towards affordable mobile navigation tools for blind people. But as the Loadstone website warns, "Navigational devices do not replace navigational skills, the white cane and/or a guide dog!"

Photo credit to wallyg.

eBook speaker


I want to introduce MultiReader an Android speech application.

MultiReader speaks Word, Power Point, EPUB, PDF, RTF, text documents in several languages.

There is also a direct access (search & download) to Gutenberg, online libraries.

Currently availables voices are : English, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, Finnish, all Android TTS Engines & languages...

Many more file formats & languages will come.

This application can be usefull in public transportation, to listen documents while driving, while doing sports, for people having difficulties with fine characters on mobile phones, for eLearning, etc ...

Available on Android Market and

Official web site :

awsome idea for blind

awsome idea for blind people, bookmarked

Great news for blind people

It is one great news for blind people, yes, this GPS product is a great first step towards affordable mobile navigation tools, not only open source software, but also some free software (such as easygps) can do more helps for people, $10 million is huge, hope more software like these.