By some estimates every 100th person in China is blind. The PRC has more visually impaired people than any other country on Earth and, surprisingly, the first major local tech company to fully acknowledge that is not dealing in optical equipment nor does it have anything to do with medical technology. On October 14, the eve of the White Cane Safety Day dedicated to visually challenged people, Meituan-Dianping, China’s king of food delivery and lifestyle services introduced a new service succinctly named Meituan Voice in cooperation with the Chinese Association of the Blind.
The new option embedded within the Meituan app, as well as available through smart speakers like Baidu’s Xiaodu, allows visually impaired people to place food delivery orders using only their voice. The service streamlines the process of ordering food for blind people by allowing them to complete every step of the process from choosing a restaurant to paying their bill by interacting with the phone verbally.
“The purpose of scientific and technological innovation is to serve everyone. As a life service platform, we hope that our small efforts today, will allow more people to enjoy the convenient life brought by scientific and technological innovation,” said Wang Huiwen, co-founder and senior vice president of Meituan.
According to a sample survey conducted by Meituan, 87% of blind people have ordered takeout, 40% of blind people will choose takeout as the main means of accessing meals. More than 70% of them use mobile apps to order takeout, but often face inconveniences when interacting with the interface.
“In order to better understand the special needs of blind people for voice interaction applications, we conducted field research in the early stage of research and development, and took note of how blind people operate mobile phones by participating in blind activities,” said Cai Xunliang, head of the Meituan Voice project.
The Meituan Voice team was established in 2017 with an aim to provide voice interaction solutions and products for the company’s business partners and customers. Its vision is to “make everybody’s access to life services as simple as speaking”.