Perkins School for the Blind Pushes Into Apps, Driverless Cars

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people with sight to log directions for blind people in a standardized way.

Google, which owns crowdsourced traffic and navigation app Waze, was “very intrigued by the potential here,” Power says. “I don’t know all of Google’s motives, but if you can help a person who is visually impaired find a bus stop, you can help a visually impaired person find Starbucks, Eddie Bauer, and all the small businesses that are really the basis for Google’s business model.”

And for Perkins, “we’re solving a really mission-critical problem,” Power says.

The school is working with Boston-based mobile development shop Raizlabs on the app, which is expected to launch later this year, Power says. A small group of Perkins staff members are conducting research with potential users, helping with product design, and planning the strategy for commercializing the app. (Perkins is a nonprofit, but Power stresses making its programs and services financially sustainable.)

Perkins hasn’t settled on a business model for the app, Power says. The options include charging users a fee, serving up advertisements when users are near a business, seeking donations, or even gamification. The last one would be similar to how Foursquare crowns a user the “mayor” of a venue if he or she has checked into that place more often than anyone else. (Perhaps the person who contributes the most directions to Perkins’s bus stop app could earn a free breakfast at Tatte Bakery & Café, for example.)

“We’re already thinking about ways to make sure we’re always investing in making the app fresh, relevant, and doing great things,” Power says.

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