Project - Cities Unlocked

Cities Unlocked

We're using new technologies and user-centred design to make cities easier to move through for their most vulnerable citizens.

Cities are inherently large and complex places that can prove difficult to navigate and stressful to spend time in, especially for those who are young, old, disabled – or simply unused to urban life. But with the correct technology, we can help everyone feel more comfortable in the city.

We've been working with Microsoft, Guide Dogs and The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis to understand how people experience the urban environment as they move through it. By assessing their emotional response to the urban environment we've built maps that reveal which city features people find frustrating or useful.

Based on those findings we've developed a prototype device that provides visually impaired people with a 3D soundscape, augmenting their perception of the world around them with extra information, provided by digital beacons dotted around the city. In real-world trials on journeys between Reading and London, it helped users feel more confident in their urban surroundings.

Now, we're working with public and private organisations, from Barclays and Tesco to Network Rail and First Great Western, to roll out larger networks of beacons that will allow us to provide information for everyone, via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. These devices will allow anyone to take advantage of the extra information using their smartphone, and help us unlock cities – for everyone.

Have you seen…

Our Cities Unlocked report

How 3D audio technology could 'unlock' cities for blind people in The Telegraph

This device creates a 3D soundscape to help blind people navigate through cities in Fast CoExist


Cities Unlocked from Future Cities Catapult on Vimeo.


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