How to Use Your Smartphone As Your New Set of Eyes

Thinking you need contacts or Lasik surgery to be able to see your way from point A or point B? Well, think again. Courtesy of Google, now there's an app for that.

Google has released two new Android applications to help make navigating through life a bit easier for both the visually impaired and navigationally challenged. The applications, WalkyTalky and Intersection Explorer, work with Google Maps to deliver spoken walking directions and provide users the opportunity to explore the layout of their route or neighborhood streets before venturing out.

As the name implies, WalkyTalky is essentially the audio version of Google Maps. Users enter or select their address among favorites and the app immediately begins reading walking directions aloud. In an upgrade from the standard Android navigation app, it also says the names of streets and intersections as you walk by to help you stay oriented, a handy tool for the app user with 20/20 vision but no sense of direction.

The second application, Intersection Explorer, truly shows what technology can do in terms of accessibility and is an exciting hint of what’s to come. The touch exploration app empowers users to explore their route before they even leave the front door. The app starts out at your current location and then speaks directions and streets as you move your finger along the app to “explore” the neighborhood. If you get lost, you can trace your finger in a circle on the screen and the app will call out each street you pass over, along with its corresponding compass direction.

The releases are the first of their kind from Google but the latest to show just how far smartphone technology can go. In this case, a complementary set of senses. What’s ahead: perhaps Google will go from just a verb to our sixth sense?

Stay tuned.