Inspiration

I met a friend and we both being visually impaired, it was quite difficult to find each other. Remembering this experience, I thought of developing a bot that would solve this problem. When two visually impaired people meet, it is important for them to get relatively close to each other before they can start communicating without the help of a phone. This is difficult when the area is unfamiliar to both the people.

What it does

The bot replies with a list of landmarks / points of interest when a user submits a location to the bot. This helps any one of the two people meeting identify a place where they can get to and communicate to the other person so that they can meet at that specific location. This can also be used casually when someone wants to know whats in their vicinity specially during a wait on the roadside.

How I built it

I used NodeJS and Google Maps API to get the points of interest and return it as a JSON array. This service is then connected to Facebook using webhooks.

Challenges I ran into

Once I had identified the solution, I had to validate it. I called up few of my visually impaired friends in Mumbai and asked them if there was a bot like this, how would they use it? Everyone described the same use case and said that it would actually be helpful and would make their lives easier. This made me very excited and I decided to build this bot.

What's next for NearbyBot

Next steps for the bot is to improve User Interface and add some more features like categories. It would also be prudent to investigate the use of such a bot by sighted people and not just visually impaired people.

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