Microsoft has announced a collaboration with Moovit and Aira that aims to help blind and visually impaired people access public transport. The new solution will be based on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

If you’re unfamiliar with Aira, it is a platform for visually impaired users that helps them move about the world more efficiently. The startup was founded in 2015 and offers a series of technology tools to provide independence to visually impaired users. Aira has a mobile application on Android and iOS.

By leveraging the service, users can connect with human agents who will read road signs or menus. This is achieved through connecting via the smartphone camera to Aira. Until now, the company has been using Google Maps. However, agents found would have to use other resources, which is where Moovit enters the equation.

Moovit is an app that allows people to travel around a city through various modes of transport that are all connected through the services. It also provides a back-end mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) platform for third-party vendors.

A year ago, Microsoft teamed with Moovit, allowing Azure to provide public transport routes crowdsourced from millions of users.

Aira and Azure

Now, Microsoft’s Azure Maps will provide Aira with a more complete solution than Google Maps. Aira will be able to get multimodal transit navigation real-time views, and full access to data. Human agents will now be able to offer a more complete experience, including navigation and whether the visually impaired user is on the correct route and transport.

“The belief that mobility is a basic human right for everyone is the motivation behind this partnership,” Moovit’s chief growth and marketing officer Yovav Meydad said. “Together, with Aira and Microsoft, we are aiming to make public transit more accessible and inclusive to blind and low vision riders. This will open opportunities for riders to travel more freely and independently, significantly impacting their life.”

“In Azure Maps, we invested significant time and resources to define accessibility requirements, implementing capabilities for those with needs and pushing ourselves to service this segment of users,” added Azure Maps head Chris Pendleton.