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Seth Wilson, Product Manager at ayes.ai joins Bold Blind Beauty today to introduce the groundbreaking OKO app, created to enhance street-crossing safety for blind and visually impaired individuals. The content provides a thorough introduction to the OKO app, its functionality, and its benefits for blind and visually impaired individuals.
Seth not only explains the app’s functionalities but also offers insightful tips for its usage, emphasizing that OKO is a powerful companion tool to enhance street-crossing experiences. The OKO app is an invaluable addition to the toolkit of pedestrians on the blindness spectrum, striving to ensure safe and efficient crossings.
This post contains the YouTube video for your viewing pleasure, along with a transcript for those who prefer written content. We welcome your comments and feedback in our Facebook Group. Enjoy! ~Steph
Beyond Sight Magazine Cover
Hello, I’m Seth Wilson, Product Manager with ayes.ai, spelled A-Y-E-S dot A-I. I’m also legally blind myself, I have optic nerve hypoplasia. And today I want to introduce you to the OKO app, spelled O-K-O. I want to give you a little bit of history of the app, tell you what it does, and give you some tips for using it.
Revolutionizing Street Crossing for Blind & Visually Impaired People
So, let’s get into it. OKO was born a couple of years ago in Belgium. Our founders, Michael, William, and Vincent have a mutual blind friend named Kenny, and like a lot of us blind folks, Kenny faces the challenge of how to cross streets safely.
Audio pedestrian systems are awesome, but they’re expensive for cities to install. They can take a long time to install and they can break down even after they’re in place. All our founders are awesome tech guys and so with the background in artificial intelligence, they wanted to find a solution to help their friend.
So the OKO app was born and translates existing pedestrian signals into feedback that us blind and visually impaired folks can use. Launched here in the States around six months ago. And since then, we’re proud to have helped with well over 200,000 street crossings and we’re happy to announce that we’re growing. So exciting times for OKO.
OKO App Functionality: Simplifying Street Crossings
Well, it uses your iPhone’s rear camera and artificial intelligence (this is iOS only for now), and using AI translates feedback from existing pedestrian signals. You know, the red hand for don’t walk the little white walking figure for walk and the countdown timer with a hand for the countdown. It translates those visual signals into various feedback that us blind VI folks can use. So first and foremost, it provides audio feedback in the form of a slow beep when the red hand is displayed speeding up into a fast beep when the White walking indicator is displayed. And finally, a different pitch beep when the countdown is displayed.
In addition, it also provides haptic feedback. That is your phone will vibrate to the same rhythm of those slow and fast beats. So this is useful not only for DeafBlind users but also even for those of us with more or less decent hearing in heavy traffic environments. Obviously, there’s a good deal of background noise, and hearing the app may be difficult. We do have audio settings for that, but if that’s not enough the haptics do help augment that feedback.
Finally, for folks with some vision, the screen will also display red for when the hand is displayed and green for when the walk signals are displayed. So all those various forms of feedback are available in addition to, in one of the newer updates voice feedback. So the app will also say verbally walk signal or don’t walk signal respectively. Let me give you a brief demo of what that looks like.
Quick Demo: OKO App in Action
So I would approach an intersection in the normal way using my cane or guide dog, finding the intersection with my truncated domes with my cane. Or, my dog stops the curb like a good boy or girl. At this point, I would open up the OKO app. You can open it manually as I’m doing here, but you can also invoke it with Siri. I won’t do that now to trigger anyone’s phone, but you can definitely do that.
So open up the OKO app and once you’ve done that we recommend holding the phone kind of at chest level to get yourself pointed at an intersection, kind of eye level. And let’s say you’re approaching an intersection and your parallel street is to your right. If you start out kind of pointing to the left and then rotate your body from left to right the 1st traffic indicator that you hear will be pointing exactly at the pedestrian signal of the street you need to cross.
So once you’re aligned correctly, you’ll hear a slow beep like this when the, when the hand is displayed. When the light changes, you will hear that faster beep. So red hand signal, white walking signal. Pretty cool, huh?
So that recommendation that I just gave you, of using the signal to line up to face the pedestrian signal can also be used as you’re crossing the street if you leave the app open and continue to point it in the direction you’re going.
One problem that I face and that, you know, other blind users face is the problem of veering off in an intersection as you’re crossing. Obviously veering off into traffic is not ideal, veering off course is not ideal. So the OKO app can help with that by keeping it open keeping your phone held to your chest as long as the phone continues to provide that feedback that you’re pointed at the pedestrian signal. You know, you’re, lined up correctly and you’re going in the right direction. If the phone falls silent for any reason you know that you may have gone off course and that you need to reorient yourself to that pedestrian system.
And so once you hear the beeps again, you know that you’re lined up correctly. So that can be helpful, not only for finding the street crossing but crossing the street itself and making sure that you’re aligned correctly, especially in a busy intersection. That’s, that’s one pro tip. So, some tips for using OKO.
Pro Tips for Maximizing OKO App
Another pro tip is that, and also kind of a neat behind-the-scenes peek at the technology is that the app does all the artificial intelligence processing on your iPhone. So it doesn’t for processing purposes send any of that information to the cloud or, or any fancy thing like that. So what this means is you could in theory use the app in airplane mode. I don’t know why you’d want to, but you could.
But the kind of real-world practical side of that is I live in East Texas and it’s, semi-rural out here and there’s often not a great cell phone signal, but that’s not something you need to worry about with OKO. OKO will work even if you’re not getting any cell service at all. So that just doesn’t need to be a concern.
The final tip I would give is that there are lanyards available that will hold your iPhone. We don’t recommend any specific one, but you know, as blind VI pedestrians, we’re already short a hand, right? Either through using a cane or through a guide dog harness. So holding a phone in addition to our mobility aids can be, onerous. And so there are lanyards that will hold your phone at, our recommended chest level and will free up a hand. So you can look for those online at Amazon or elsewhere.
OKO Is A Powerful Companion Tool for Navigating Street Crossings
This is a good moment to mention that OKO is not meant to be a replacement for your O& M skills. You know that your cane, your guide dog all the skills that you’ve worked hard to learn over the years. Those are still, your primary tools in your travel toolbox. OKO is just another really powerful companion tool in, your journey. And we’re very proud to provide that tool and service.
So it is free on the app store. Again it’s spelled O-K-O. We would love it If you enjoy using the app if you would leave us a review on the app store it really helps spread the word to more blind folks and get the app in more people’s pockets and hands.
Also, there is a way to leave feedback in the app if a crossing for whatever reason doesn’t go as expected. So please feel free to use that as well. I’m also available, my email address is email@example.com and I would love to hear from you. I love talking about this stuff geeking out about not just the OKO app, but blind pedestrian travel in general. This stuff is really exciting to me.
So get ahold of me I would love to talk to you about it. Talk about this all day, but I will not take any more of your time. I sure appreciate you watching this video and I hope you have a wonderful day. Thanks so much.
Connecting With Seth/OKO
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: ayes.ai
- Instagram: @ayes_ai
- Facebook: @artificialeyesai
- LinkedIn: @ayes-ai
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- The header, Beyond Sight Magazine Cover, and YouTube Thumbnail contain identical headshots of Seth Wilson, a Caucasian man with salt & pepper hair wearing a lei around his neck as he smiles for the camera. Text on the cover reads “Beyond Sight October 2023 | Cane EnAbled | Seth Wilson.
- Headshot of Seth smiling and wearing a black tee shirt.
- YouTube Thumbnail Title: Introducing OKO: Revolutionizing Street Crossing Blind & Visually Impaired People. In the video, Seth is sitting behind a microphone and wearing earphones.
- 4-panel photo grid containing screenshots from the OKO demo in the video. 1) Pedestrian signal information 2) Camera Visual: Off 3) Don’t Walk Signal 4) Walk Signal