The old saying about walking a mile in one’s shoes to understand another person’s world echoes in comments made by Erich Manser, Accessibility Researcher at IBM. Manser is well suited for his role of understanding the requirements to improve accessibility, as he has been unable to drive for the past 15 years due to a gradual loss of vision. Accessibility, especially when it comes to mobility is a big deal, as, according to IBM’s Laura Langendorf, half of us have one or more impairments by the time we are 65.
At CES2018, IBM, along with other the other ecosystem partners that are part of the open and crowd-sourced, #AccessibleOlli project, demonstrated their methodology for understanding the needs of different people. #AccessibleOlli is about providing a low-speed, autonomous transit pod that can ferry multiple people, regardless of their ability, while providing the passengers independence that is generally not available today.
At CES2018, four personas, representing visual impairment, hearing impairment, physical impairment and cognitive impairment, were provided as examples of the types of customers who could benefit from #AccessibleOlli. The booth featured the entire on-boarding process from payment to the bus-stop to vehicle access.
In keeping with the mass customization concept that software-defined hardware enables, Manser indicated that adaptability is an important attribute and being able to adjust the experience on a per-customer basis is important to improving accessibility.
A linchpin of adaptability is communicating to the customer in terms she understands, whether that is sign-language or audible tones or even vibration. With advances in and the cost reduction in things like high-resolution cameras and microphones, screens and machine vision and the associated artificial intelligence (IBM’s Watson), #Accessible#Olli is almost as much a mobile personal digital assistant as vehicle.