Change Makers: A Podcast from APH

GoodMaps 2022 Update

February 24, 2022 American Printing House Episode 47
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
GoodMaps 2022 Update
Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of Change Makers, we're talking to GoodMaps officials. We’ll learn the latest on their new app, what projects they’re working on in the U.K. and what’s next for the accessibility app. This podcast is moderated by Greg Stilson.

Participants (In Order of Appearance)

  • Sara Brown, APH Public Relations Manager
  • Greg Stilson, APH Head of Global Innovation
  • Jose Gaztambide, GoodMaps CEO
  • Mike May, GoodMaps Chief Evangelist
  • Neil Barnfarther, MBE, GoodMaps Europe, Vice President
  • Steve Ewell, Consumer Technology Association Foundation Executive Director

Additional Links


Email Addresses


Jack Fox:

Welcome to Changemakers a podcast from APH. We're talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here's your host.

Sara Brown:

Hello, and welcome to Change Makers I'm APH's Public Relations Manager Sara Brown. And today we're going to hear an update from GoodMaps. We're gonna learn the latest on their new app, what projects they're working on in the UK. And what's next for this accessibility app. I'm going to turn it over to A'PHs Head of Global Innovation, Greg Stilson he'll moderate this podcast.

Greg Stilson:

Thanks so much, Sara. I am Greg Stilson head of APH's Global Technology Innovation Department. And with me today, it's two good friends , uh , in the field. Uh , Jose Gaztambide, the, GoodMaps CEO and GoodMaps Chief Evangelist, Mike May . Hey , hi. Both of you, I'm looking forward to , uh , to talking about a lot of really exciting things that you all are working on.

Jose Gaztambide:

Thank you, Greg. Great .

Mike May:

Thanks for the opportunity to be here.

Greg Stilson:

All right . Well, I am super excited to talk with you guys today. Um, you know, GoodMaps is it it's been around for a little while. Jose, when did you guys, when were you first founded?

Jose Gaztambide:

Uh , 2019 .

Greg Stilson:

Okay. All right . So it's been about three years. And how , how is, you know, there's outdoor navigation that blind people are very used to, we we've had this for, you know, better part of 20 years now, but how, how is GoodMaps different? I know it , it , it works with indoor navigation, but what's the technology behind it?

Jose Gaztambide:

Like, Yeah, thanks, Greg. I , I , I would say good maps is different in a number of ways, and I think you , you nailed it to us now. We're, we're really hyper focused on indoor navigation , uh, to your point , uh, outdoor navigation. And I think fairly good outdoor navigation has been around for a couple of decades, but indoor continues to be this massive opportunity and this massive need , uh, that the industry has been taking a lot of swings at and just really , really not managed to , to get right. Uh , and there's a number of reasons for that. And , um , that , that was really our focus from the get go because it was what we heard most from, from people and from the industry and from our partners , uh , that we haven't unlocked indoor mapping and indoor navigation. And so what really makes us unique is we've combined , uh , and developed a number of technologies that effectively helped us get around the traditional problems that have existed in, in indoor navigation. Um , the, the first one is really about maps, the availability of maps. Uh, there are generally speaking, no indoor maps. And so we've developed a new mapping platform and a new process that uses LIDAR , uh , a technology that's been around for a handful of decades, but has grown in important because of its role in autonomous vehicles , uh , and use that to compress the time that it takes to create an indoor map , uh , which was , uh , a major pain point for the industry. The other thing that we've done is, is figured out how to position people when they're indoors , uh, and how to do that , uh, in a way that A.. Requires no physical infrastructure. So, so no beacons, nothing that people have to put on, on walls and maintain. Uh, and B... That's much more accurate , uh, than , uh , than a Bluetooth beacon and a lot of the other kind of traditional approaches. So what that means is that for the end user, the experience of navigating indoor is, is , is one that you can fundamentally trust , uh, because that accuracy is as good as it is. Uh, and number two, it means that for the venue, which is fundamentally , uh, the person who's paying the costs to, to have this installed, it's a much better user experience. Uh, and that's because they don't have to pay for that hardware. They don't have to maintain that hardware. Uh , and so we think we've, we've hit about upon a , a , a business plan and a product that kinda meets a lot of the needs that we've been hearing from the industry for many years now.

Greg Stilson:

Great . And, and correct me if I'm wrong with this, does use the users . It uses a number of the sensors that are in the smartphone. Um , but one of the biggest changes or , or differences is that , uh , a user does utilize their now , is that correct ?

Jose Gaztambide:

Yeah, that's exactly right, Greg. Uh , the way that we are able to, to get around the infrastructure requirement is by basically using the user's camera to identify , uh, where they are within that, within that space. Uh, I think importantly, there's no personally identifiable information that, that, that data doesn't go anywhere. Nobody views it. It's just a way for your phone to be able to tell you you where you are .

Greg Stilson:

Gotcha. And I know, you know, Mike, you and I have, have spent a lot of time working on the, the , the app itself and things like that. And you guys are working on an update, is that correct?

Mike May:

Well, always , um, the it's , as soon as you release something, you're always pushing features to the next update. Well, let's save that for later. So yeah, we're, we're working on updates. The , the first product came out , uh , about a year and a half ago. And , uh , we've been coming out with new versions ever since, mostly focusing on the improvements indoors. And we acquired as you know, from IRA good maps outdoors, so that we a more mature outdoors product to help our users to deal with the outdoor environment while we focused our resources on indoor challenges, both positioning and mapping. And it's, it's probably , um , we , we shouldn't , uh , of not say the fact, this is a huge nut to crack. I've been involved in indoor navigation projects since the mid nineties, people have been trying to do this, and it has not gone mainstream. And it started out as , uh, an infrastructure free approach with you wearing a device. And then it went to infrastructure, things like beacons, and now it's finally come full circle and realizing the , the , the viable way to make this happen commercially is to have , uh , no infrastructure installed. So it's cheaper for the venues. And , um , that's been, you know , 25 years in the making, and we're really thrilled to be on the , the cusp of seeing that be successful commercially.

Greg Stilson:

And, you know , you talked about the outdoor navigation experience that you guys , um , acquired from from IRA. And can you talk a little bit about what, what that is and how that kind of fits into the good maps ecosystem?

Mike May:

Sure. There are a number of outdoor navigation products, everything from the Google and Apple mainstream products to the accessibility products and those mainstream products obviously focus on the sighted user and not providing two verbose of an experience. They provide turn by turn. They give visual indications of where you are and what's around you. And so the accessible apps fill in the blanks or fill in the information. That's what is in between. And I need confirmation that I turn and where is my next turn and how far away is it? So that verbosity is, is really what separates the accessibility apps from the others and the , what we call "GoodMaps Outdoors," which used to be seen on IGPS is a mature app with lots of user input over the course of eight, nine years. So that a lot of the features that users want outdoors have been implemented, and that's not something we could do right out of the blocks at GoodMaps. And so we've kind of taken advantage of the best of both worlds by bringing in that app to cover those verocity needs of blind people. And then we wanna see that work together with a seamless navigation from an outdoor place, to an indoor place. And that's why we have the two map , the two apps, the two apps, GoodMaps Outdoors, and GoodMaps Explore, which focuses on the indoor experience.

Greg Stilson:

Got it. And , and you've, you've been getting feedback on both, both experiences, both apps , um, you know, have you , can you pinpoint any feedback on, on either of those experience, the Outdoor or the Indoor that may prompt you to make some changes , uh , in, in either experience?

Mike May:

Yeah. Well, users are, are both amazingly appreciative and amazingly demanding. Uh , that's been the case since I started doing this stuff in the late nineties. Uh , so it's, it's an ongoing process and that's why the updates keep happening because we filter out what are the priorities, what can we accomplish? What can we add? And in terms of outdoor navigation, I think it's, it's always a matter of filtering in filtering information. Every situation is not the same. Sometimes a user is destination oriented and sometimes they just wanna wander around or know what's in their environment. And so there's a sweet spot in figuring out what is the right for Bo city level for the right situation. And the more you can do that automatically the better or you provide options, same thing indoors. We have to help make the process indoors simpler. So in an ideal world, the computer would read your mind and , uh , would get you to your destination without having to interface with the phone a lot. Uh , part of that of course, would be evolving towards a speech control, a voice input kind of system, so we can have indoors, but we have outdoors, which is give me walking directions to such and such a location. That would be great. We're not there yet, but it's very high on our priority list to simplify the indoor navigation experience.

Greg Stilson:

Gotcha. You know , you , you reference this hybrid approach where you're, you're going outdoors to indoors, to outdoors. There's a , there's a lot of locations I'm thinking of college campuses and outdoor malls and things like that, that, that have this hybrid experience that, that exists. And right now , um, you know, GoodMaps is built for, for single building environments. Are you guys looking at addressing this, or how are you looking to, to tackle those challenges?

Mike May:

Well, the operative word is "campus," and that's what we've deemed this feature that we're adding , uh , any minute now. Uh, and I'm sure it will evolve and , and get more extensive. But the idea of course, is you wanna navigate from , um , indoors in some facility, you finish a meeting or you , you finish a class and you think of the student experience, then they have to hustle over. They've got 10 minutes to get to their next class. They've got go outdoors and then indoors to another location. And so we wanna make that journey as simple as possible. And that means see mean and stitching together those buildings with an indoor outdoor experience.

Greg Stilson:

And do you envision the user kind of flipping from the GoodMaps Outdoor Experience, to the GoodMaps Indoor Experience? Or are you, you know, is your dream, what , what's your dream app look like? Is it one app that does both?

Mike May:

Well, right now you have to navigate to a building using the outdoor capabilities. And then you're asked to "you're, you're at an indoor building. Do you want to enter?" And you click? Yes. Because maybe you're just walking by it. So that's the first interaction you have to have. If I set my classroom is my destination that I want the system to be smart and figure out , uh , don't ask me if I want to go into the building cuz now I'm at it. So we'll, we'll, we'll simplify things by compressing. What not might now be, let's say a five step process . We want to reduce that into a one step process.

Greg Stilson:

Gotcha. Okay . And you know, you , you , you mentioned good maps, outdoors and , and good maps explore. Do you guys have any other apps under development or are those your primary , uh , focuses right now?

Mike May:

We do. Of course. We've got to address. "How does the venue owner manage and control the maps?" Um , maybe Jose can comment more on, on that , uh , part of the equation.

Jose Gaztambide:

Yeah, Greg, we, we do have some things , uh, in the works that we will be releasing , uh, at some point here in , in 2022 that we're pretty excited about. Uh, I won't go into many details, but I will just say that it is all in the spirit of , uh , universal navigation and the idea that anybody should be able to navigate their space independently. Uh , and on improving the experience for anybody , uh , walking into a space that , that we have mapped and , uh , and that we support. So we're, we're really excited about the , the things to come.

Mike May:

And I think generically, we know in navigating, there's not one app that does everything. So you might have a , a bus timetable app going , uh, if , if you went into a store, you'd , you'd be pulling up products. And so in an ideal world, my dream is to see some integration and at least some simplification between those apps. And that's part of the, we realize it's not just about getting to the building. It's about the journey in between the buildings. And then once you get inside being able to experience what's in that building fully, and that's going to require collaboration, which we've talked about a lot in , uh , the rest of this podcast.

Greg Stilson:

Absolutely. Oh, and you , you , you talked about, you know, your dream, Mike. Jose, what's your , what's your final, not final, but what's your , what's your long term vision or dream for what, what GoodMaps becomes? Um, whether it depends on a partner or several partnerships or, you know, where where's your head at with this?

Jose Gaztambide:

Yeah, that's a , that's a great question, Greg. You, you know, to , to answer that question, I think we got to go back to the prompt that we asked ourselves almost three years ago , uh, in the series of problems that we identify that , that led us down the path that we're at right now , uh, and fundamentally those problems , uh, focused around the idea that there are no digital maps, that there is no good trustable infrastructure, free positioning approach. And that the value proposition for IndoorMaps was too limited for most customers to say yes to going through that process. So when I think of the GoodMaps of the future, I imagine a platform that has mapped an absolutely enormous percentage of the areas that any individual could go into on any given day , uh , in that that individual , uh , would feel comfortable navigating , uh , that , uh , that , that designated building. But I think more importantly, that individual should have a choice in the way that they engage with that mapping data in , in the way they navigate through that space. And so one of the things that we hope for, for, for good maps is that it becomes a , a tool in a data repository that any accessible navigation company can tap into for their users, because we fundamentally believe that users deserve a choice and they shouldn't have to relearn , uh , their navigation system , um , uh , based on, on who has access to the mapping data and who doesn't. I think the , the third piece that I would add onto that is we imagine good maps really incorporating a whole lot of other use cases. In addition to just , uh , navigation. Uh, we hear from a , a number of people, all at things like asset tracking , uh , is important in a hospital setting , uh , or crowd tracking is important in an airport setting or being able to deliver the mapping information to a first responder on their way to the scene of a fire is really important for first responders and emergency responders. Uh, and so, you know, our , our , our vision is, is broad . Uh, our vision is , uh , there I say audacious , uh, but the need is enormous. Uh, and the feedback from the market has been , uh , delightful. Um, and so it'll, it'll take us years to build that company, but that's, that's what we're building.

Greg Stilson:

A big dream, but you guys got a ton of work ahead of you. And I think, you know, it's an awesome dream as, as a blind person myself. And I think as , as somebody who maybe isn't blind and just wants a really, really darn good in indoor navigation , um , or, or as you mentioned, if you're a , a venue, if you're a , a hospital or something like that, you wanna track your stuff efficiently. That's, that's a really, really awesome vision for the company. Anything else? I left out, um , any , any other initiatives you wanna , uh, have our listeners know about?

Jose Gaztambide:

Greg I just wanna add on to the point that, that you just made , um, obviously our, our heart and our soul and our origin story lies with, with blindness. Um, and , and that will never cease to be the case, but there's a need for every, I mean , ... I'm a fully sighted person and I get lost all the time. I get lost in my kitchen, Greg. Um, and , uh, there's, there's no limit , uh, to the number of places that I, that I wish were mapped and that I wish I could get around, and that I wish there was information for that currently isn't at my, my fingertips. And I think solving that problem for everybody is really big part of achieving scale , uh, and of making sure that the value proposition that we bring is robust enough , uh, that, that anybody , uh, would, would say yes to this because every person that enters that building is impacted by the, by the technology. And that's, that's really important.

Greg Stilson:

So in between the hospitals, airports, big venues will to Jose's kitchen to make sure that that gets mapped in . So

Jose Gaztambide:

That , that would be great. (Laughing) That would be great. That's probably low on the, on the roadmap.

Greg Stilson:

Well, thank you both for, for joining. This is , uh , a really awesome kind of insight into , to what you guys are looking at and, and what I think our , our listeners and, and potential users can expect from GoodMaps in the future. I think Jose, or , uh , I'm sorry, Mike, you, you hit it right on the head that this is one of those things that you, you do have to try to, to, to , to really get what the independence value is , uh , for those of us who are blind or visually impaired. Um, so if you do have an opportunity , uh , at a venue near you , um , you know, try to get there and use it, it's, it's an unbelievable experience. It gives you sort of this, this newfound sense of independence that maybe you had in an outdoor navigation situation, but you've never experienced indoors. So thank you both for, for joining, we'll look forward to , uh , to hearing about some exciting updates in the , the coming months. And , uh, we'll , uh , we'll chat with you soon.

Mike May:

Yeah, Greg, thanks very much. And I encourage people to go online and download GoodMaps Explore, and , uh , thanks to APH for having the vision to spin off this division, which , which became GoodMaps to , to do all of this work. And it makes me think that there's so much more than printing in , uh , the , your now in your third century. And I think of it's more like "American Print Alternatives for the Blind." So great to have that breadth and , uh , innovation, which you're in charge of as part of the, the , uh, the , the collaboration between our organizations.

Greg Stilson:

Absolutely. Yep . I'm , I'm looking forward to more collaboration with you all. Um, and, and you, you kind of hit on where you can download , um, the existing apps. If, if folks are interested in getting in touch with you , um, to, to at local venues mapped or to potentially , uh , start a partnership conversation , uh, what , how do they get in touch with you?

Jose Gaztambide:

Yeah, they can email us at info, GoodMaps.com. Uh , there's a lot of information on GoodMaps.com, including a list of venues that we currently support. Uh, and so if any listener has a curiosity , uh, uh , of where good maps is closest to them going on the website, we we'll give you the latest up to date news.

Greg Stilson:

Sounds great. Thanks again for joining.

Jose Gaztambide:

Thank you, Greg .

Mike May:

Thanks. Thank you.

Greg Stilson:

All right . So obviously a lot of really exciting stuff to talk about here and , and really we focus so far on good, the GoodMaps experience as a whole , um, and kind of where it's come from, where it's going. Um, joining us now is Neil Barnfarther, Vice President of GoodMaps, Europe, to talk to us a lot about what is happening globally , uh , with good maps. Hello, Neil . And thanks for joining us here on Change Makers.

Neil Barnfarther:

Thanks. So so much, Greg, for the welcome me to this , uh , podcast.

Greg Stilson:

Well, Neil , I am super excited to talk to you, Neil . It's been, you know, we , we talked about feels like it's been two and a half years since we talked to each other. That's pretty much what it's been , uh , unfortunately thanks to COVID, but , uh, it's awesome to , uh, to, to hear your voice again. And I know there's a lot of really exciting things happening with good maps in, in Europe and other locations. Um, can you kind of talk to me a little bit about what market segments you're seeing growth in, in , in Europe and, and surrounding areas?

Neil Barnfarther:

Yeah, sure. Um, it , it is , you're absolutely right. Um, super exciting really , uh , to see the way that the product and the technology is being embraced. Uh, in the way it has been. Um, I , I look back upon the sort of commencement of , uh , that the role , uh , in the region and it GoodMaps being that sort of , um , accessibility product and seen as very much something to help , uh , explicitly and expressly, our community, getting around in environments, which traditionally you'd have considered , um, you know, difficult, challenging, and, and frankly almost hostile to us , Uh , without, you know, good and extensive , uh , O&M training in those environments. And the technology just has so much capacity to come in and absolutely evolutionize how we access environments. Um, and what what's been really exciting over the journey of sort of the last 18 months or so is to see how organizations who , um, may not have been at original target have sort of ran with the technology predominantly , uh , as they've seen that growth in the accessibility context. Um , but predominantly they're looking at it from a universal access from an inclusivity tool. They've got their, their sighted folks walking around in their buildings using it. They've got , uh , wheelchair users utilizing step free access. It's assisting people , uh, who are experiencing neuro-diverse challenges and barriers to environments. And that , that has been tremendously , um, warming and gratifying to sort of just see the way organizations are, are being creative and responsible employers and, and hosts to their, to their customers. So specifically the areas that we have seen the most growth in that, you know, you would really sort of say, "wow, that that is super exciting," is , is things like transport. So we've seen , um, not just one station and two stations and sort of drip, drip, we've had an entire line. So, you know, literally start terminals to end terminals and all stations in between , um, mapping and the commitment from those sorts of transport partners coming in and saying, you know, this matters to us, this is important. And we want this as part of our customer journey. We've equally seen , um, really strong , uh , connections with , uh , grocery retail , um, with, with organizations looking to map literally supermarkets. And the , the way that, that empowers the user to access those environments, is really game changing, not just for our community, but for, for many people. So, yeah. Um, those are certainly some of the real surprising areas. Corporates, obviously we're getting, we're getting quite a bit of , uh , traction in individual corporate environments , uh , with people wanting to help get staff around to meeting rooms , uh , helping guests in those spaces, helping people find the nearest bathroom , um, and, and that sort of side of things. So it's , um, it's really great to see the way people are sort of seeing us as it's navigation at one level, but it's also , um, so very much more and almost, you know, the , the limit is your creativity and your imagination.

Greg Stilson:

And are you able to, to talk about any specific locations that have been mapped or places that, you know, if somebody wanted to go check out GoodMaps , um, where, where if they had a location near them?

Neil Barnfarther:

Sure.

Greg Stilson:

Where, where could they find this?

Neil Barnfarther:

Yeah , absolutely. So the, the obvious , um , locations that I would talk about are the, the line , um , the first group transparent express , uh , railway line that runs , uh , starting , uh , in Manchester at Manchester airport station rolls right across through the middle of the country , uh , through Huddersfield and then ends up in hu uh , at the Northeast of the country. So that that's great experience. Um, we also have a row station , um, near where I live , um, just North of West of London that's available. And if you wanna go try out the grocery retail experience, for example, that's available at the moment in , um, an Asda supermarket, which is one of the big national chains over here. And that's available in that store is, is located in a town called Stevenage , uh , which is just Northwest of London again. Uh , but they are looking to roll out to additional stores, following huge interest , um, from both our community, but indeed the wider societal interest. They've had a really good, really positive , um , feedback from, from, you know, literally their entire consumer base within the store. So , um, those, those are the two sort of obvious places to, to give our product a , a road test .

Greg Stilson:

Awesome. And, you know, as, as a blind person yourself, and, and I know that that I've used GoodMaps. Can you, can you walk somebody through sort of the experience they would expect in, in say a , a , a rail station or something like that? Um , just, you know, the , the 30,000 foot view of how you would use good maps? What , what , what autonomy does it give you when you're using it in these these locations?

Neil Barnfarther:

Sure, absolutely. And, and that's the exact word I would use because we've, we've lived with this notion that we've assisted travel, you know, blind people and the disabled community can have independence. And the reality of that is if you are reliant on that assistance, what what's happening is you're basically being, you know, picked up, put down, picked up, put down, guided from one point to another, Hey, wait, here. Then someone comes back and that is not independence, but what's fascinating is GoodMaps is far more than independence. It, it, it literally brings autonomy. It it's your decisions on your terms. And the experience is very much as follows. You'll arrive at a , a mapped venue. Um, upon arriving you launch the app, the app will indicate that you're in a , a venue that's supported and invite you to enter , uh , with a tap of the button. So you'll say, "yes, I wanna enter this venue." And then from there you have a variety of options. You can explore the venue , uh , via a, a sort of , um , look around mode, which, which is anyone who's used navigation tools for , um, our community and the outdoors environment with GPS. We very familiar with that sort of process. Being able to turn around and understand what is around you. The, the next sort of , um, level of usability is the, the functionality of searching a venue , uh , by, by level. So :what's on the ground floor?" "What's on the first?" et cetera . Um, and, and look at specific types of , um, information. If so, if it's a wide Concourse, for example, we can add additional environmental information. So if we can describe the shape of the venue , uh , the , that area, we might say "the ticket areas off to the right." "There's a , waiting area or seats on the left," et cetera . And then I suppose the core functionality at the moment is the navigational experience. So from the search box or from the , uh , directory of, of points of interest within the venue, you'd select an item and you would be provided directions and a route to that destination and this a few sort of , um, uh , options in that from step free access, et cetera . But in essence, once you trigger that experience, you say, I want directions , uh , you'll lift your phone into the upright position, allowing the camera to look forward ahead of you. You'll be directed , uh , with a rotate command if you're not facing in the right direction to start walking. And once you're facing a correct way, you'll hear an auditory cue and you'll be given , uh , verbal prompts , uh , via both voiceover or , um, the inbuilt , uh , text-to-speech engine. And in essence, it is very much akin to what you experience in the outside world, you know, "walk forward 50 feet, turn left , uh , turn right," et cetera , you know , uh , enter into the elevator, down the escalator, et cetera . And , um, you'll be taken point to point from where you are to , um, roughly speaking sort of the , sort of very, very close to the anticipated destination. So , um, you know, we are , we are , we are seeing users arrive , uh , close to that sort of three, four, five foot points of, of that destination requirement, which is just absolutely amazing. In a train station environment, when you sort of consider, we couldn't have got anywhere near that. If I put you in a train station that you had no familiarity with before, and I said, Hey, get yourself to platform two. And on platform two midway down, there's a bench, want you to go find that bench and sit on that bench. Most people in our community would've gawked at that and been highly anxious about that. Let alone would've necessarily successfully done it. Were they totally blind? And we can now deliver upon that.

Greg Stilson:

Yeah, it's a , it's a remarkable experience as somebody who's used it in , in our , in our own APH building. I remember when I was new APH, the building APH is, is in , is a very, very large expansive building and somebody who had not explored that building very much , um , just to be able to, and , and I think that that's really akin to the success that GoodMaps has seen in our communities. You're not trying to reinvent the wheel. You're using familiar terminology as we've used an outdoor navigation for a long time, which is things "like points of interest," right? You're looking for in indoor points of interest that you can now navigate to. Um, there's a lot of them indoors , um, because there's a of places that you can go, but , um , essentially you're right. It's, it's this whole, you know, set this as a destination and go, I think the biggest difference is what you, you mentioned with regard to the orientation of your phone , um, is putting your phone in an upright position because , um, there's, you know, and Jose is alluded to this before it's using, you know, the camera to, to track where you are. One thing I do want to clarify , um, is that this does not do obstacle detection. You're still expected to use your, your travel tool of choice, your cane or your guide dog to navigate around obstacles. But this is looking for is just getting you from point A to point B uh , in the correct direction. Is that, is that a good way to summarize that Neil ?

Neil Barnfarther:

Yeah, absolutely. I think , um, there are two things, so firstly, just touch on your last point there . Absolutely. So the, the expectation is that you have your O&M skills, you know what you're doing with your cane, you with your guide dog and, and you're , you're , you're walking. And when you were told to "go forwards 50 feet," "a hundred feet," whatever it is, there is an expectation you don't literally walk forward, irrespective, you know, that , that route, it , it may have a minor curve to it. And, and, you know, you've , you've got to obviously utilize that skill in that space, but predominantly yes, that, that's absolutely right. You know, it's, you know, if , if there's, if there's say a , a trash can or something, you know, along that corridor, you know, and we are telling you to go forward and you are skimming the wall, your cane is gonna , or your dog is gonna find that trash can, and we're not gonna say, "hey, half step to the left walk forward, free , you know, free foot , then half step to the right to go round that trash can." But the, the other thing I just wanted to touch upon as well, interestingly, concerning the APH building. So I've never been in there before, but one of the amazing things is the ability to virtually tour locations. So, you know, load up the app, select one of our venues and explore a , you know, a building from the comfort of your own home that is incredibly empowering. Um, you know, to us, particularly our community, being able to explore those environments and understand, okay, right, this , this many levels, the office is here, it's near these restrooms it's oh, okay, cool. It's near this, this conference. You can call this. Or, you know, and if you start beginning to build that mental map in your mind of a venue before you're even there, it takes a huge weight off of you when you actually do arrive. So that virtual functionality is incredibly beneficial.

Greg Stilson:

No , I love it. Especially as spatially challenge , as I know that I can be at times, at least having that mental map of the elevators. When I come down from the elevators, I know that the meeting rooms are gonna be over in this general direction. It just gives you you're right. That sense of relief a little bit, when you get off those elevators that you at least know that you're turning in the right direction.

Neil Barnfarther:

Exactly. And I think Michael probably talk about it a little bit more , um, specifically obviously with, with his extensive experience in this space. But I think the , the , the traveling with that confidence, that real assuredness is the , the big difference between, you know, you arrive in a shopping mall and you know, someone, "hey, you're right. And I'm oh yeah, yeah. I'm , I'm gonna Starbucks. Okay. It's down there on the right. Okay , great. That's that's fantastic. How far is down there?" You know, and , uh , and having this awareness of its like 300 feet down on the right, we can pace that out. We have a rough idea what that is. So having that virtual concept before you get there is so unbelievably empowering and then, you know, actually getting there and , and walking along, you , you know, it doesn't matter if that place then is, is packed or, or empty if there's a lot of audio interruption, but cause it's busy or, or , you know, maintenance work going on, which may be distracting, et cetera . You know, that is, that is so, so beneficial.

Greg Stilson:

Very cool. Um, with regards to GoodMaps Europe, is there anything coming in the pipeline that you wanna talk about or any, any , um , any, any other initiatives that we didn't cover?

Neil Barnfarther:

Sure. Um , well I think the biggest thing is , um, we , we are commencing the expansion , uh , into the European area, specifically mainland Europe. And , um, that, that is just really exciting to see that as we're beginning to actually have , uh, physical locations, that , um, brands that are very well recognized in transport, in , um, corporate and in academia and indeed in retail are becoming exposed to the products we, we are , I mean, I'm getting calls literally from people and they're saying, Hey, you know, we'd like to discuss it. What does it look like? Let's talk it through. And when I'm proffering to them , you know, can I tell you where your nearest location is ? So you can go and try it. Uh , invariably, now I'm beginning to hear, that's why we're speaking to you. We've already tried it in that location. And so they've, they've sampled it and now they want it. That ., That is great. And specifically in the U.K., Obviously that the big thing is that , uh , the retail organizations are really beginning to ramp up and say, "okay, we've done the pilots. Now let's talk about, you know, wholesale, you know, our entire estates." So we're beginning to talk about, you know, "what does that look like?" You know, and, and "what does that mean for our community" and, and the wider demographic to mean that people can actually go into these places and access them autonomously, you know? And, and that is my , when you sort of think it is 2022 , and finally that equality, that inclusion message is actually becoming a reality. Uh , I , I , I can't convey how, how powerful that is. Um , but , but specifically transport and, and retail are the standout areas from a public perspective. Um, and it , it , it's super pleasing to see corporates responding in this way as well. You know, having an , a corporation say, this actually matters. You know, this is all part of our, you know, we've, we've got our agenda, we've had our disability, our include agenda for these years , but how do we actually welcome people in, how do we help them in the interview phase? How do we do all that? How do we make people feel at ease? And, you know, people really taking that on board that this matters, and it should be something that's done that that's really good.

Greg Stilson:

I love it. I love it. Um, I'll spin this over to Mike or Jose. You, you know, GoodMaps is, is now becoming a global company. Um, and you guys are seeing success , uh, around the world, right. Can you just talk about a few of the, the , the global organizations, companies, places that you've mapped, that, that people would know of , um, that, that, that, you know, they , they could try this out or things like that, you know , uh , Neil talked about a few , uh , train stations and, and transport locations in the UK, any anything in the , the global perspective that you can mention?

Mike May:

Yeah, thanks Greg . Well , Neil summarized things quite well in terms of how the app works and the , the value, the benefits of it. And of course the big challenge for GoodMaps is scaling this. Uh , when you , when you think of the world being mapped outdoors, and 20 years ago there , the everything wasn't mapped and points of interest had to be added and streets needed to be added. And so we're kind of in that part of the curve, right at the beginning, in terms of indoor navigation, it's a huge, but it's also a huge challenge. One of our first international partners, or definitely our first was , uh , CNIB. And so that's where we , we have a partner that's helping to make this happen in Canada, starting out with one of the CNIB facilities. We have many discussions going on with other English speaking country is in Australia, in particular who, who have been , um , real advocates for all sorts of , uh , accessible navigation for a long time. And I'm sure something will happen there sooner than later, New Zealand. And then going beyond the English speaking countries to , uh , to many of the others. There's some, some blindness agencies who've always been involved in accessible navigation , uh , in Israel, in Spain, Netherlands , uh , I mean, you name it. Uh, the world is reaching out to us and of course us back to them to work on the collaboration so that we can get demo sites into these different facilities. And as Neil says, once somebody has the opportunity to go check it out, then they have that aha moment. This is great because we know that , uh , the side of people, they , they obviously use GPS and navigation and it's important. It becomes very essential in their lives, but there , they do have an alternative to look around and see print signs. So where you're in , um , this situation where you don't have print signs, and you can only depend on well-meaning cited people to ask questions of, if there happen to be somewhere around this kind of accessible information is huge as we've learned outdoors, and now we're helping to people to realize how important it is, indoors everything from malls to airports, to hospitals, universities, et cetera .

Greg Stilson:

Yep . Absolutely. Anything that we didn't cover , um , in sort of the global initiatives that you all have. It sounds like you have a bunch, it sounds like you have a lot of work ahead of you, but , um, any , anything that you'd like to be seeing happening here in the next , uh , 12 months or so related to, to your global initiative?

Jose Gaztambide:

Yeah. I'll just come in here, Greg. Um, I , I think you're going to see a really rapid expansion , uh, of venues that are supported by good maps on the, on the global scale. Uh, and , and really particularly , uh, in the , in Europe and in Canada , uh, there's a lot demand both because of enabling legislation, but also because of the culture and the , those two geographies and the, and the emphasis that they put on accessibility , uh , and that's gonna directly translate into more spaces that people can walk into and , and navigate independently. Uh, so we're just, we're just really excited about the feedback we're getting , uh, in the kind of momentum that we're seeing in those international markets.

Greg Stilson:

Awesome. Well, I am looking forward to seeing good maps in more places, worldwide. Um, being able to, you know, I think we all have this dream as, as blind people, to be able to board a plane in our home location, go travel internationally, exit a plane in our destination, and be able to navigate both airports completely independent. I mean , if , if I was going to boil a , a dream that I think almost every blind person shares down to that , um, you know, good maps has the potential to do that. So let's cross our fingers that that dream can become a reality. So , um, I wanna thank all of you for, for joining us, Neil , thank you so much for joining us from the UK. Hopefully COVID allows me to come see you at some point this this year . Um , but , uh, thank you so much for joining us and, and keep up the great work.

Neil Barnfarther:

Thank you so much, Greg. I really appreciate having me.

Jose Gaztambide:

Thank you, Greg.

Greg Stilson:

So obviously the foundation of GoodMaps was built around accessibility. We we've heard a lot about that so far, joining us now to join me in a conversation really about accessibility as a whole, is the Consumer Technology Association Foundation's Executive Director, Steve Ewell, and also in , in this conversation is Mike May , which he is a , CTA board member as well. Um, so thank you both for, for joining in this really , uh , exciting part of the conversation.

Steve Ewell:

Thanks for having us here. And it's , uh , exciting to have this conversation and talk about some of the accessibility we saw at CES this year.

Mike May:

Yeah. Thank you.

Greg Stilson:

All right , Steve. So CES was a little different this year, but I'm sure that accessibility was still something that was talked about. Can you talk to us a little bit about what accessibility things came out of CES, any initiatives or, or things that came up this year?

Steve Ewell:

Yeah, absolutely. And , and yeah, as you , uh , said, it was certainly a little bit of a , a different year for us at , uh , CES, but , uh, we are excited to continue to have , uh , accessibility be a major topic for us , uh , at the show. And there's a variety of different activities that we have throughout the, the year to , uh , be able to , uh , highlight accessibility and really bring that to the show. You know, one of the, the major projects that we do each year is we have our Eureka park accessibility contest , uh, and maps was actually one of our previous winners. Uh, they won , uh , back at the CES 2020. Um, but this year we had five new companies there , uh, representing a , a wide variety of different technologies , um, right in the, the very opening area of , uh , Eureka Park. So , uh , it's a great way for us to highlight just a couple, the startups working in the , uh, accessibility space, it's both accessibility and aging for that contest. Uh , we also do , uh , a program called our Accessibility Round Table. And this is actually one of the, the highlights for the show. For me, it's an opportunity for us to bring together , uh , leaders from the disability community as, as leaders from , um , across the industry and talk about some of the big issues going on related to accessibility, but also, you know, talk about some of the technologies that we're gonna see , um, at CES. So this year, you know, topics range from, you know, some of the hearing technologies now that we're seeing , uh, over the counter hearing , uh, uh, rules , uh , starting to, to come out , um, looking at virtual work technologies and what are the, the technologies that can assist as we've all been , uh, working in the, the COVID pandemic , uh , world, and now shifting towards more of a , a hybrid world and , and what are the accessibility challenges and , and opportunities that come out of that. And then it's just an opportunity for a number of different , uh , both companies. And , uh, as I said, the disability advocates to really share some of the, the opportunities and challenges and build those relationships. And that's one of the key parts , uh, for me, is being able to bring people together, have those introductions and start to look at how can we all work together, little bit better , uh, to make sure that , uh, accessibility is built into some of the, the broader , uh , general consumer , uh , technologies and , uh, building those relationships that will ultimately make better products for, for all of us. Um, so in , in addition to that, there's a variety of different, you know, panels and programs and use and things like that that happen throughout the show. Um, and you know, it's always great to have people like, you know, Mike who's , uh , one of our , uh , trustees , uh , at the show , uh , walking around the show for as well and finding all the, the great technologies , uh , that I may not , uh, always get to see everything. So , um, I don't know if Mike wants to add , uh , some of the things that he saw as well.

Greg Stilson:

Yeah. Mike, why don't you talk about some of the things you were texting me about or putting on Facebook cuz you found some cool stuff.

Mike May:

Yeah. Well it's definitely a situation where you wanna divide and conquer and that's why it's been great. That CES has reached out and, and gotten different people from the accessibility community to come and look because with hundreds of thousands of, of people to meet with and companies to interact with, you just can't possibly , uh , see everything all of the time. I really enjoy the fact that since good maps has a product, that's both for accessibility and for the general market, we're part of a mainstream event and seeing our , uh , our booth there, right, and mixed in with everybody from sleep number mattresses, to healthcare products, to , uh , tracking products , uh , we were there to, to meet with people and, and to develop relationships as far as products that I saw, there weren't as many in terms of accessibility, but I'm hoping that that's because more accessibility is being baked into products. A lot of , uh , companies have apps and they don't necessarily know if those apps are accessible or not. And so one of the, the fun things myself and other blind people do is to say, well, let's turn on voiceover and see how your, your app works. And then this makes them very nervous. But you actually find out that some of them work quite well from , uh , robotic products like , uh , the Labrador, which is a robotic cart that moved your stuff around , uh , there's asset tracking companies , uh , which we really want to collaborate with, cuz it's part of, once you have good maps in your building, you can track where your stuff is. Uh , so those are just a couple of the categories of things that we touched on. Uh, in terms of accessibility, there was a company that had an obstacle detection device with cameras and headphones and they deliver were that information to you. So you'd have a , a spatial understanding of your surroundings and what's in front of you. Uh , that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Greg Stilson:

Oh, very cool. Yeah. I , uh, the , the , the accessibility round table is always sort of the , the highlight that I've been to as well. And it was such a bummer not to, to make it this year. I know , uh , I think our president Mader was, was there. Um, I was glad that he was able to be there. Steve, what other big initiatives does CTA have , uh , CTA Foundation have on the, on the pipeline related to accessibility?

Steve Ewell:

Yeah, absolutely. And , uh, and you know, our foundation is focused in on how technology can help both older adults and people with disabilities. So just about EV everything that we do has accessibility as really a , a core piece , um, whether we're working with the aging population or people with disabilities at , at all ages. Um , so there's a lot , uh , happening a lot going on. Um, and actually this year , uh , we're getting ready to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the CTA foundation, which , uh, to me just seems like time has , uh , flown by , uh, as we've , uh , launched and, and built this foundation. Um , so we're, we're really looking at ways we can highlight , uh , a number of the programs, both the companies we've worked with, the nonprofits that we've supported , uh, including APH , uh , which has been , uh , an incredible partner , uh, with us , um, as we celebrate our 10th anniversary and look at how we're gonna be able to, to build off that with a , a new strategic plan , uh , to make an even bigger impact in our, our coming next 10 years. Um , but on top of that, we continuing to , uh, look at our, our grants programs. You know, the CTA Foundation really , uh, tackles our , our mission through three key key pillars. Uh , one of which is looking at how we can do the convenings, things like that accessibility , uh , round table . And yes, we were thrilled to have , uh , Craig (Meador) representing , uh , APH there., Things like , uh , the , the , um , pitch contests and other activities where we really promote innovation as our , our , our second , uh , pillar of activity. And then the third is that funding and working with nonprofits across the country that are using technology to serve their communities. So a lot of great , uh , opportunities coming. Um , and can't wait to , uh , be able to announce a few things , uh , here soon.

Greg Stilson:

Very cool, happy birthday CTA Foundation. So there you go. Um, you know, Mike, you kind of alluded to this, I , I don't know if you guys have a sort of general consensus feel for , um , the way the accessibility field is going or a trend the accessibility field is going. Mike, you alluded to it by saying that there's a lot of companies that are starting to bake accessibility right into their app experiences and things like that. I'm just wondering if, if one or both of you could, could kind of give me your opinion on, are you seeing a trend in the way that accessibility is being looked at today in the technology field?

Mike May:

I, I think we're the trend in terms of attention and visibility in companies. So they have their diversity and inclusion officers and some have accessibility departments, and that's all great. Are we getting better in terms of what the end user experiences I'd say? Yes, but we've got a lot other to go than we've come. Uh , because most of the accessibility that I find at these different companies, if it's there, it's accidental, it's because they follow the right guidelines when they develop their app and their app works. And so it's accessible. There's also more and more technology that's addressing issues that helps us all. And I think that that , and , uh , is, is definitely helpful. The fact that you're having more automation, voice input is huge. Uh , that's not really intended for blind people, although we probably championed it and started it long before anybody. Now it's coming into ma a lot of products. And then when you have voice control of products, that also means then it's easier for everybody to use. And when things are easier for everybody than blind people, fortunately benefit from that. I also wanna mention that a unique thing about CT, the CES is that CTA provides guides for the show days, and this is an amazing opportunity for people to see for themselves what's out there and go at their own pace and have full accommodation. And I don't know of any other large show or almost any show that provides that kind of accommodation. It's amazing.

Greg Stilson:

In a event , you, as large as Vegas, it's probably really valuable.

Mike May:

Oh, indispensable.

Steve Ewell:

And that's something that we've , uh , you know, it's really a priority for us. As we look at CES, we wanna make it a accessible show for our attendees regardless of , uh, disability. Um, and you know, that, that it's a real priority for us, as Mike said, it's not a accessibility focused show. Um, in , in the way, you know, some of the other, you know, the CSUN's and other conference along those lines would be, excuse me, would be , uh , but essentially , uh , as a general consumer technology show, looking at the broader population, it's important for us to make sure that accessibility is a key topic there, and it's starting to get more companies to pay attention. We had things like, you know, Samsung had a , a big accessibility portion of their booth, where they were highlighting everything from , uh, ways that their televisions could adapt to various types of color blindness to , uh, screen readers and their refrigerator , uh, touch screens and , uh, sign language in some of their menus. So , um, you know, the fact that we're getting large global brands like that , uh, they also highlighted accessibility as part of their , uh , keynote , uh , address as well. Uh, but it's not just us, you know, the large global brands like that. It's everyone from the, the small startups , the , the mid-size companies and more , uh, and this is really an opportunity for us to get in front of those , um, companies that aren't, don't have someone who's a full-time accessibility , uh , expert on their staff and help them understand why it so important to address these issues. And , uh, and that is why it's so important for us to have leaders from the disability community at the show, whether they're representing , uh, some of the, the advocacy organizations or whether they're, you know, members of the industry. And I think that's , uh , where it's really important for us to highlight, you know, it's not just the advocacy organization, but there's a lot of people , uh , within the industry that , uh , have disabilities. And they can really , uh , help as we look at designing the , the best products for , uh , people moving forward.

Greg Stilson:

I love it. That's, that's, that's a great way to summarize it. And I mean, when you look at it 10 years ago, would we have ever seen televisions that when you turn them on, have, you know, text to speech that are for somebody who's visually impaired, I think 10 years ago, the question of do blind people, we've watched TV is really something that people ask . So , um, I think we definitely are seeing progress and , um, it's just very cool to, to have an organization like CTA Foundation helping to kind of further the further the mission there. So thanks for what you, what you guys are all doing. Um, anything else that we, we didn't talk about, or any other initiatives that , that you wanna bring up before we, we let you go,

Steve Ewell:

I'll jump in first and Mike have , may have some , uh , others, but , uh, you know, we're constantly looking for, you know, partner is , uh , key stakeholders that we can work with , uh, both in the, the for-profit and nonprofit world, as we bring people together and really continue to , uh, educate , uh, people about the types of technologies that can help people of all ages and abilities. Uh , and that's why, you know, I really , uh , appreciate APH , uh, covering this issue and the, the work that , uh, you all are doing , uh, to, to make , uh , technologies that , uh , really do some , uh , great work in this space. So , uh , we really appreciate , uh , APH as a partner. Um, you know, beyond that , uh, if people, you know, are interested in kind of seeing some of the other activities that we'll have throughout the year , um, basically go to , uh , our website at ctafoundation .tech. It's T ECH , or find us on, you know, the various social , uh , media channels , uh , Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn , uh , we're now on Instagram. Uh , and we we'll be keeping those up to date with , uh , other activities that we have throughout the year.

Mike May:

Yeah. And I'll echo with , Steve's said in terms of partners and collaboration, it's really important. We , we can't do this without them and they can't do it without us. So I think it's, it's important for any company to know, small to large that there are resources out there, APH, GoodMaps, CTA Foundation, and many more to address more, more than just web accessibility. That tends to be the focus in terms of my life. And I think most blind people these days, it's more about app accessibility, which needs a lot more attention and that can be done very easily through , uh , having beta testers and consultants to help advise when a product is, is good or not. And that's a lot cheaper if you do it from the ground up rather than you try to retrofit after the fact.

Greg Stilson:

Absolutely. Well, thank you both for , uh, for, for joining us today. And we, we look forward to hearing about what what's happening , uh, with CTA Foundation next year, hopefully , uh , after a really, really successful CES 2023.

Steve Ewell:

Great. Well thank you for having us and , uh, it's great to have this conversation.

Mike May:

Thank you very much. I appreciate being part of the conversation and collaborating with Steve U and all the good work he's doing at the CTA Foundation.

Greg Stilson:

I'm gonna hand it back over to Sara.

Sara Brown:

Thank you so much, Greg. And we'll be sure to put any links or websites mentioned in the show notes. And thank you again so much for listening to this episode of Changemakers and as always be sure to look for ways you can be a changemaker this week.