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Satellites to guide the blind
Tormes provides coordinates and directions

Madrid (pte041/05.06.2003/15:15) - The Spanish association ONCE has developed a satellite navigation device for the blind together with the European Space Agency (ESA).

The Tormes system informs blind people of the exact coordinates of their location and their desired destination, affording them more freedom and independence. "Blind people can, for example, use the system to give taxi drivers directions," explained Jose Luis Fernandez Coya, director of the research division of ONCE, who himself is blind.

Tormes consists of a portable computer with a braille keyboard and voice output. The system will most likely be ready for the market by 2004 .

The Tormes "Personal Navigator" relies on the US-based GPS navigation system. But because GPS can only narrow a location down to a radius of 15 to 20 metres, ESA will use EGNOS as a back-up service. EGNOS stands for European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service, a system based on geostationary satellites that can correct the GPS signal to within two metres.

According to ESA, this can help the user distinguish between individual streets and know on which sidewalk he is standing.

Because the satellite signal can be interrupted by buildings, ESA has also developed a so-called SISNet (Signal in Space through Internet) system to transmit the information over the Internet.

Tormes will later rely on the European Galileo satellite navigation system for coordinates. The project goes back to an initiative by ESA, the European Commission, Eurocontrol and the European Flight Safely Association, whose aim it was integrate flight technology into daily life.

Submitter: pressetext.europe
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Phone: + 43 - 1 - 811 40 - 319