Press

31 May 2015

MIPsoft Reveals BlindSquare 3.0

MIPsoft announces BlindSquare version 3, in celebration of its 3rd anniversary supporting navigation for travelers who are blind. With this release BlindSquare supports the continuation of navigation indoors for venues equipped with Beacon Positioning Systems (BPS). When GPS fails, BPS continues ensuring the traveler remains aware, is well informed, and travels with confidence and options. BlindSquare is the only Augmented Reality application specifically designed for people who are blind or have low vision.

In collaboration with Dr. Merja Saarela, Principal Lecturer and Research Group Leader in Multisensory and Assistive Technology at HAMK University of Applied Sciences, MIPsoft has developed BPS, which can be installed in public buildings as well as public transportation, to help people who are blind or have low vision to use these facilities more easily and confidently.

The BPS consists of iBeacons, low energy Bluetooth devices sending out signals that can be received by smartphones. When a BlindSquare user enters the range of a specific beacon, a message associated with that beacon will be played on their iOS device.

“We a proud to finally present BlindSquare BPS to the public,” says Ilkka Pirttimaa, head and founder of MIPsoft, and lead developer of BlindSquare.

“Our system is unique, because we use only 10% the amount of beacons required by other indoor navigation systems we see being developed. To cover an area of 20,000 square meters (215,280 square feet), we only need 18 iBeacons. At the same time, BlindSquare BPS delivers accurate and context aware information to the user. We are also pleased to partner with Kontakt.io, a provider of high quality iBeacons who shares our vision of making public spaces accessible to everyone.”

BPS has been developed in collaboration with Dr. Merja Saarela and several blind and low vision individuals. Tested and piloted in Helsinki at the ITIS Shopping Centre, the largest enclosed mall in Scandinavia, BPS is now available to any organization or business wanting to make their premises more accessible to blind and low vision people. Jarmo Loponen, one of our first users who helped to develop the system, said: “I have low vision and often look for a sign to help me know where I am, only to discover that I am not able to read it once I have finally found one. With BPS, I can now just hear the messages and don’t have to concentrate that hard anymore.” “I am pleased we were able to give MIPsoft the opportunity to test BPS in our mall,” says Kirsi Feirikki, manager of the ITIS Shopping Centre. “ITIS contains businesses, restaurants, and medical services. I am glad to know that due to BPS, it will be easier for our blind and low vision customers to access them.”

A BlindSquare BPS is now being installed at Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) national headquarters in Toronto and, in June, in Wellington New Zealand for Blind Foundation. Both centers will be featured as national centres of excellence for leading technologies. BlindSquare was awarded CNIB’s Winston Gordon Award of Excellence in March, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Access Award in April.

BlindSquare BPS can be employed in many kinds of buildings. In museums, for example, it can be used to make the exhibits accessible to visually impaired patrons, describing the pieces and providing the background information usually available in writing only.

Ilkka Pirttimaa, inventor of both BlindSquare and BPS, says: “I would like to thank our visually impaired test users, the management of the ITIS Shopping Centre, who allowed us to install a prototype of BPS on their premises, and Dr. Merja Saarela, who helped us to conduct the research our system is based on. “BPS has proved very effective in helping our visually impaired test users to navigate ITIS more quickly and easily. I hope that it will be installed in both commercial and cultural venues, to give people living with low vision or sight loss equal access to public spaces anywhere.”

MIPsoft, founded in 1989, is a software company specializing in the development of smartphone applications. Based in Helsinki, Finland, it works with an international team of freelancers from the US, Germany, UK, Estonia, and Sweden, most of whom are blind or partially sighted.

CEO Ilkka Pirttimaa is the lead iOS developer. Close monitoring of social media channels and of relevant Email discussion lists as well as rapid development cycles allow constant product advancement. Marketing is mainly carried out through social media. Additionally, MIPsoft has earned a reputation for outstanding customer support.


Please use the following form if you would like more detailed documentation, a demonstration of BlindSquare BPS in either Helsinki or Toronto, are interested in having BlindSquare BPs installed on your premises, or would like training to become authorized to install BPS on our clients’ premises.

27 March 2015

MIPsoft Receives 2015 Winston Gordon award for Excellence in Accessible Technology from CNIB and Reveals Plans for an Indoor Navigation System

On Wednesday, 25 March MIPsoft received the Winston Gordon Award for Excellence in Accessible Technology from the CNIB for developing BlindSquare, the popular GPS app geared towards people who are blind or partially sighted. Ilkka Pirttimaa, founder and CEO of MIPsoft and lead iOS developer accepted the award at a breakfast ceremony held at the CNIB head office in Toronto, Canada. The national charity supporting blind and partially sighted people recognized MIPsoft’s success in taking “GPS navigation to a different level”. BlindSquare allows users to “plan out an entire trip before leaving home – whether getting on a bus, hailing a cab, selecting a great place to eat or just walking down a new street with confidence. All of this is possible from the comfort of your couch.”
“I am honored to have BlindSquare recognized by CNIB and the prestige of the Winston Gordon Award,” says Ilkka Pirttimaa, who joined the ceremony via Skype from Helsinki, Finland.
“BlindSquare has been built to solve many problems blind travelers face on a daily basis. It’s a bit unusual as it’s an app that is continually being refined, not from our talents alone, but from the daily experiences of thousands of travelers who have come to enjoy new information, new choices and a bigger and safer world beyond the tip of their cane.” Pirttimaa also thanked thousands of clients, hundreds of beta testers, dozens of translators supporting the localization into 25 languages,” who contributed to the evolution of BlindSquare. He also revealed plans of MIPsoft and the CNIB to introduce an indoor navigation system based on Bluetooth beacons. “With sponsorship by MIPsoft, Kontakt.io (global manufacturer of iBeacons) Acapela group (global supplier of the premium voices used by BlindSquare) and AfterShokz (global manufacturer of bone conduction headsets) we would like to honor the award by responding with the installation of a BPS (Beacon Positioning System) inside CNIB national office – to allow the experience of using BlindSquare to continue indoors. This is a first in the world engagement and we are honored to introduce our Beacon Positioning System with CNIB.” The BPS will help BlindSquare users to locate important places such as the cafeteria, meeting rooms or washrooms.
“I am truly looking forward to utilizing the indoor navigation capability of BlindSquare,” says Debbie Gillespie, CNIB’s accessibility coordinator. “It’s a natural fit for me, and opens up endless possibilities for independent navigation and wayfinding. It is a welcome addition to my technology toolkit.”

About the Winston Gordon Award

The Winston Gordon Award was established by CNIB in 1988 and is presented to an individual or group who has made significant technological advances benefiting people with vision loss through the development of a product, software or application. For more information on the Winston Gordon Award visit, cnib.ca

About MIPsoft

MIPsoft, founded in 1989, is a software company specializing in the development of smartphone applications. Based in Helsinki, Finland, it works with an international team of freelancers from the US, Germany, UK, Estonia, and Sweden, most of whom are blind or partially sighted. Close monitoring of social media channels and of relevant Email discussion lists as well as rapid development cycles allow constant product advancement. Additionally, MIPsoft has earned a reputation for outstanding customer support. For more information on BlindSquare visit blindsquare.com.

About CNIB

CNIB is a registered charity, passionately providing community-based support, knowledge and a national voice to ensure Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life. For more information, visit cnib.ca.
For more information, please contact:
Sara Wilbur
Specialist, Corporate Communications
CNIB
Sara.Wilbur@cnib.ca
416-486-2500 ext. 7157

4 February 2015

MIPsoft wins Access Award from the American Foundation for the Blind

MIPsoft, developer of the BlindSquare GPS app, which is used by thousands of people all around the globe, will receive an Access Award from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) for “commitment to innovation and access for all.” Other recipients joining MIPsoft this year include Comcast, Microsoft, Odin Mobile, Joel Snyder, Ph.D., American Printing House for the Blind (APH), and Texas Instruments.

Carl R. Augusto, president and CEO of AFB says “We are thrilled to recognize the important work these organizations and individuals are doing to expand possibilities for the more than 20 million Americans with vision loss. They are breaking down accessibility hurdles and developing solutions that truly work. I commend them for their commitment to equality and accessibility.”

“I feel honored to have my work recognized by the AFB,” says Ilkka Pirttimaa, founder and head of MIPsoft and lead developer of BlindSquare. “I believe in making accessible GPS information available to visually impaired people all around the world. I would like to thank all of the BlindSquare users whose invaluable feedback has helped me to develop BlindSquare into the feature- rich application it has become. Thanks are also due to the beta testers and translators, most of whom are also visually impaired. BlindSquare is an app truly inspired and supported by members of the blind community all around the globe.” At around $30, it is an affordable alternative to other accessible GPS products for every iPhone user who is blind.

The access Awards are given annually and honor individuals, corporations, and organizations that “eliminate or substantially reduce inequities faced by people with vision loss.” The 2015 Access awards will be presented to the recipients at the April 10 at the AFB Leadership Conference in Phoenix, AZ.

The American Foundation for the Blind is a national nonprofit organization promoting equal access and opportunities for visually impaired Americans. AFB’s many activities includes supporting families and individuals affected by vision loss, offering continuing education to blindness professionals, and guiding the development of more accessible products.

16 December 2013

Intuitive Fleksy Keyboard now available in BlindSquare

BlindSquare 1.60, released on 12. December, is one of the first apps to have integrated the innovative and intuitive Fleksy Keyboard. Users can now enter search terms using Fleksy, greatly increasing their typing speed.

Ilkka Pirttimaa, owner of MIPsoft and developer of BlindSquare states: “I am delighted to be able to offer my users this new method of entering text in BlindSquare. After all, my customers use BlindSquare while on the go, so I am always looking for ways to make interacting with BlindSquare easier and more efficient. Having already integrated Braille input into BlindSquare through another third-party app, I am happy to now also offer the Fleksy Keyboard as another text input method to my users.”

BlindSquare is an iOS app that helps blind and visually impaired users to orient by telling them the names of public points of interest and streets around them. First released in May 2012, it now has thousands of users all around the world.

Fleksy is an intuitive on-screen keyboard for iOS and Android devices, supporting English and Spanish. It couples a traditional touch typing interface with algorithms for word prediction. Using Fleksy, it is now longer necessary to hit the right letter on the keyboard, as Fleksy is able to correctly guess what its users intend to write, greatly increasing their productivity. Fleksy has first been released in July 2012, and is now employed by visually impaired and sighted users alike.

31 October 2013

BlindSquare wins as best app in the e-Inclusion and Empowerment category at WSA World Congress 2013 in Colombo, Sri Lanka

WSA Global Champion 2013

WSA Global Champion 2013


BlindSquare is an iOS-app that helps blind and visually impaired people to travel independently by providing them with spoken information about their environment. BlindSquare has now been selected from the five winners of the e-Inclusion and Empowerment category at the awards ceremony on 26 October as the best app in this category
Assessing BlindSquare the jury found that this app provides blind people independence by enabling them to travel without help from others . As BlindSquare uses data from Foursquare and Open Street Map, People with vision using Foursquare are helping people who cannot see to locate places . The jury concluded that BlindSquare stands out in the use of GPS, speech technology, open data as well as user-friendliness .

The World Summit Awards are given biannually and select and promote the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications through national pre-selections and contests together with a global jury process.

The jury’s assessment of BlindSquare
Information about the award

12 September 2013

Finnish World Summit Award Winners: BlindSquare and Kinetic Stories

The World Summit Award (WSA) jury has chosen the best digital media applications in 2013. BlindSquare by MIPsoft is a winner in “e-Inclusion & Empowerment” while Kinetic Stories by Delicode wins in the “e-Entertainment & Games” category.

BlindSquare is a new solution that combines the latest technology to improve the daily life of the blind and visually impaired. Kinetic Stories is a series of storybooks that mix traditional storytelling with the latest developments in motion tracking and speech recognition technology.

WSA Winner 2013

WSA Winner 2013

The World Summit Award (WSA) is a global activity to select and promote the world’s best e-Content and most innovative ICT applications. WSA was initiated in 2003 in the framework of the United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and is organised by a global partner network, coordinated by the International Centre for New Media. WSA partners come from governments, private sector and civil society in over 160 UN member states.
Five winners are selected in each of the eight award categories.

“Winning this top-notch competition proves that even for a small start-up it is worth to snatch at big challenges” says Ilkka Pirttimaa, CEO of MIPsoft.

“We value a win in the WSA due to its prestige, ideological background and the expertise of its multicultural jury. This win strengthens our belief in that Kinetic Stories brings something new to the everlasting tradition of storytelling” says Julius Tuomisto, CEO of Delicode.

The nominees of each country are chosen by the National Expert. Principal Lecturer at Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) and MindTrek Association board member Cai Melakoski is Finnish National Expert. WSA Finland is organised by TAMK and MindTrek.

The award ceremony will take place at the WSA Global Congress in Colombo, capital of Sri Lanka 23 – 26 October 2013.

More information:
BlindSquare Ilkka Pirttimaa, phone +358 400 482442
Kinetic Stories Julius Tuomisto, phone +358 50 413 5412
WSA Finland Cai Melakoski phone +358 50 555 6581

Links:
WSA http://www.wsis-award.org/
BlindSquare http://blindsquare.com/
Kinetic Stories http://www.kineticstories.com/

Photographs:
BlindSquare: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/b4p4n8uszi8bmvc/WD7sm5rd7u/BlindSquare

KineticStories: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/b4p4n8uszi8bmvc/7Wq7tVlKcQ/Kinetic_Stories

All time Finnish World Summit Award winners:
http://tinyurl.com/WSA-FINwinners

4 September 2013

BlindSquare is now supported by MBraille

MIPsoft and MPaja are proud to announce that BlindSquare is now supported by MBraille’s latest release, version 1.5. The new features were first revealed at the iOS-ilta Iiriksessä, an event hosted by the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired (FFVI) on 19 August.

The newly released versions of both apps allow users of BlindSquare who can write Braille to perform certain actions in BlindSquare more easily and efficiently. It is now possible to search for places, create new POI or check in to Foursquare places using the special .bsq command from within MBraille.

BlindSquare is a GPS-app for the iPhone and iPad designed for the visually impaired and blind. It informs them about their environment while they walk,
announcing street intersections, public POI and addresses. Users can also create their private POI.

MBraille is an app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that lets users enter text turning their device’s touch screen into a Braille keyboard. The text can then be used in other apps. Through its innovative dot commands, users can send text and commands directly through MBraille to supported third-party apps.

MIPsoft, maker of BlindSquare, and MPaja, maker of MBraille, are two small companies based in Finland. Although they have only recently began to create apps specifically designed for the blind and visually impaired, both of them have already won loyal customers and users who appreciate these companies’ commitment and dedication to creating high quality apps that fully meet the requirements of this specific group of users.

For more information see::

30 August 2013

BlindSquare from Finland receives nomination for UN-based Award in Sri Lanka

BlindSquare is one of almost 500 nominees to be examined by an inter-national Grand Jury in the city of Tallinn/Estonia.

BlindSquare from Finland has been nominated by an international jury of ICT experts to enter the next round of the 2013 World Summit Award (WSA) in the category e-Inclusion & Empowerment. BlindSquare is competing against almost 500 outstanding e-Content products and applications from 168 countries in front of the WSA’s Grand Jury from Aug. 29 to Aug. 31 in Estonia’s capital city, Tallinn.

BlindSquare is an app for the iPhone and iPad that helps blind and visually impaired people to travel more independently. Using data from Foursquare and Open Street Map, it announces points of interest, street intersections, and addresses as the user travels. It is also possible to save private POI. Compared to specialized hardware devices for the blind that serve the same purpose, BlindSquare is more affordable once the user has purchased an iOS-device. BlindSquare is already used by thousands of people around the world and helps them on a daily basis to travel as independently as possible.

In the first round of the international competition, an online jury has assessed the ventures, creating a shortlist of 15-20 projects in each of the eight categories.

Currently, the WSA Grand Jury, consisting of international renowned ICT experts and industry leaders, is evaluating in Tallinn/Estonia the submissions from the remaining nominees and selecting the 40 best products. The jury members of the Grand Jury come from all continents and have backgrounds in the creative industries, telecommunication, advertising, journalism and research, as well as in teaching. The jury will be hosted by national partners such as the Estonian ICT Cluster.

Finally, the 40 world’s best e-Content applications (5 products in each of the WSA categories) will be selected to present their products in front of an international audience in Colombo/Sri Lanka from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25.

BlindSquare is nominated in the category e-Inclusion & Empowerment.

WSA World Congress 2013 in Sri Lanka

Following the selection in Estonia, the 40 WSA winners will be given the opportunity to present their products at the WSA World Congress in Sri Lanka, Oct. 23 to Oct. 25. The event will offer a platform for high level experts, industry leaders and government representatives to discuss innovation in mobile content. At the event, an on sight jury will again evaluate the products to select eight overall winners: The WSA Global Champions 2013.

“With the winners from World Summit Award in e-Content, Colombo will host the best digital producers, interaction designers and content developers from all around the world. They will demonstrate the richness and diversity of the content industries. With Estonia, a country where the access to free internet is a fundamental right of the people, we are glad to have found the perfect location for the Grand Jury.” (Peter A. Bruck, chairman of the World Summit Award)

About the World Summit Award

The World Summit Award (WSA) is the global follow-up initiative of the United Nations World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) organised by the International Center for New Media (ICNM), Salzburg, Austria. It partners with the key UN organisations and agencies in the framework of the UN Geneva Agenda and the Tunis Action Plan and selects and promotes the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications; to date more than 160 countries are actively involved. Through national pre-selections and contests together with a global jury process, WSA demonstrates the local diversity and rich creativity of ICT use. WSA is a global hub for everyone who values the crucial importance of local content to make today’s information society more inclusive.

23 June 2013

Release of BlindSquare API 1.0

MIPsoft is proud to announce the release of the BlindSquare API version 1.0. Use of the API allows third-party applications to pass information about places to BlindSquare. This will enable users of BlindSquare to view information about and navigate to places from other sources. If the developer of a third-party app incorporates the BlindSquare API into their product, users of the application will be able to start BlindSquare from within this third-party application and to perform most of the actions on places available in BlindSquare such as tracking, simulating, and saving to the My Places list.

The API also makes it possible to open links containing place information in BlindSquare so that all of BlindSquare’s features such as tracking, favoriting, and route planning can be used on the place encoded in the link, which can be placed on a webpage or send via Email.

To learn how it works, please read the documentation of the BlindSquare API 1.0.

1 June 2013

BlindSquare Event

MIPsoft is pleased to release BlindSquare Event, a free version of its popular iOS app BlindSquare, which is a GPS navigation aid for the blind and visually impaired.

If an event has been registered with MIPsoft, BlindSquare Event will make available all of the features of the full version of BlindSquare to all attendees of the event who have installed BlindSquare Event on their iOS-device. BlindSquare Event will be fully functional at the location and for the duration of the event.

If BlindSquare Event is run at a different time and location, it will operate as a demo of BlindSquare. BlindSquare Event will simulate a predefined location and users will be able to try most of the features available in the paid version of BlindSquare as if they really were at the simulated location. We hope BlindSquare Event will help potential buyers to decide if BlindSquare can be helpful to them.
You can download BlindSquare Event from the App Store.

If you are an organization and would like BlindSquare Event to be available for your event, please fill in our registration form.
If you are an individual and would like to bring an event to our attention that you think should be supported by BlindSquare Event, please fill in our registration form. We will then contact the organization holding the event and ask for their permission to support their event. You can also send a request to the organization asking them to register their event with MIPsoft.

BlindSquare Event is sponsored by MIPsoft and Acapela and we would like to thank Acapela for supporting us in making BlindSquare Event freely available to anyone interested.

1 March 2013:

BlindSquare receives Global Mobile Award as Best Mobile Health Product or Service

On Tuesday, 26 February 2013, BlindSquare, an augmented reality app for the blind, developed by MIPsoft, based in Helsinki, Finland, received a Global Mobile Award as the Best Mobile Health Product or Service at the 18th Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona. The judges recognized BlindSquare as a “truly assistive solution that combines consumer mobile technologies to address a societal problem.” More than 600 entries competed in 37 categories and were appraised by panels consisting of 160 international independent judges including leading journalists, analysts, academics, and independent experts.

BlindSquare is an augmented reality GPS application for the blind running on the iPhone and iPad. It obtains information about the surrounding environment from Foursquare and Open Street Map. Its algorithms enable it to determine the most relevant information, and then voice it out using high quality speech synthesis. For example, “What’s the most popular café within 200 meters radius?”
BlindSquare provides blind people independence by enabling them to travel without help from others.

Accepting the award, founder and owner of MIPsoft Ilkka Pirttimaa, who began developing BlindSquare only a year ago, encouraged new startups to pursue their ideas and thanked his beta testers for their support.

The Global Mobile Awards are presented annually at the Mobile World Congress, which is the largest annual event of the mobile industry with more than 60.000 participants.

29 May 2012

New iOS app from Finland: BlindSquare helps blind and partially sighted people to improve their everyday life

A Finnish company MIPSoft has developed a new mobile application for persons with visual impairments. This application, BlindSquare, provides visually impaired people new ways to get information on their surroundings. BlindSquare has recently been launched in Apple App Store and is currently available for iPad and iPhone.

BlindSquare combines GPS location information, speech synthesis and information from open data sources in order to provide the desired information for its user. It can tell a blind person the address of their current location, where the nearest street crossing is, shops and services found in a certain area – and much more. It can even assist the user to get off the bus at the right stop or guide them to a certain place. BlindSquare speaks English, Finnish and Swedish, the speech synthesis is provided by Acapela Group.

MIPsoft has been developing this application in close co-operation with the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired. It has been tested by several blind users – some even from the USA and Australia.

MIPsoft, founded in 1989, is a software company specialized in developing applications for mobile smartphones. Its best known applications are Kyyti, assisting public transport users, and Kierrätys, which helps you to find all recycling centers in Finland.

Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired ( FFVI) is a national organisation with the aim of securing blind and partially sighted people an equal status with other Finnish citizens. FFVI produces special information services and participates in developing special information and mobility solutions.

More info:

  • Ilkka Pirttimaa, MIPsoft Oy, tel. +358-50-389-0022

BlindSquare at iTunes App Store:

BlindSquare home page:

The blog of Ronja Oja, who has been test using the BlindSquare app (in Finnish):

BlindSquare in English blogs and media:

BlindSquare in Finnish blogs and media:

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