Consider arriving at an airport for the first time (or repeated visit). While directions to gates and ground transportation are normally marked, there’s a wide array of information to absorb, all while avoiding oncoming pedestrians, carts, and shuttles, and hauling your own luggage. This would, of course, be even more of a struggle for those with visual impairments. While airport and airline personnel are available to help them get to their destination, what if one needs to go to the bathroom, eat at a restaurant, or just take a stroll?
To assist with these pursuits, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, IBM, University of Tokyo, and Waseda University have been pursuing two parallel assistive innovations. The first comes in the form of a smartphone app called NavCog, which links up to Bluetooth beacons at Pittsburgh International Airport. This aids users to get from one place to another, keeping those with visual impairments on track even through extremely wide corridors where veering is a real possibility. It’s an interesting concept, and it can be downloaded for use right now as an iPhone app.
The other innovation, shown in the video below, is called BBeep, a sort of smart suitcase that employs a vision sensor to detect imminent collisions, and helps users detect changes in floor texture by the way it rolls as well. When it appears that a collision will happen soon, a series of beeps sounds, encouraging potentially distracted pedestrians to make room.