Using substitute senses for visually impaired people isn't a new idea โ€” even putting aids into hi-tech glasses isn't new. But this project takes things a step further, piping in relevant information straight into the wearer's skull.

The project is a collaboration between Microsoft, Future Cities Catapult, and the Guide Dogs charity, and it consists of an intelligent headset that looks like a pair of headphones, but uses the kind of sensors you'd expect to find in a smartphone to create a 3-D soundscape to navigate blind people through the city.

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The headset not only navigates on a small level โ€” using sounds that are coming from a particular direction โ€” but also has things like coffee shops and ticket gates programmed in, and can interact with beacons placed around the city, feeding in relevant information like bus timetables.

Most importantly, interaction with the user comes via bone conduction: sounds are send through the wearer's cheekbones, leaving the ears open to listen to the surroundings. The developers don't see the headset as a replacement for current aids, like guide dogs; rather, it's more of a Google Glass alternative, providing information about your surroundings without having to ask. [Microsoft via Dezeen]