Phone-Based Apps Can Help People with Vision Loss Safely Navigate Indoors

There is a need for reliable systems that can help blind and visually impaired people safely navigate through indoor environments like buildings, airports and other public spaces.

William Seiple, Lighthouse Guild, Chief Research Officer and colleagues, Vishnu Nair, Christina Tsangouri, Bowen Xiao, Greg Olmschenk and Zhigang Zhu recently evaluated two indoor navigation systems based on smartphone apps. Each system was tested individually, and then combined, to find the most accurate and practical system for guiding users through indoor spaces.

Adults with vision ranging from low vision to total blindness, evaluated the systems focusing on safety, ease of use, and overall experience for indoor navigation.

The Two Systems
One system consisted of Bluetooth beacons. The beacons send information about the users’ general position. Bluetooth beacons are inexpensive and easy to use, but they provide only rough, rather than precise, location information.

The second system, Google Tango, uses a phone’s camera to create a map of the indoor space and compares it with a highly detailed map of the space created in advance. However, such a detailed comparison requires much more data than Bluetooth signals use.

A hybrid system using Bluetooth and a Tango-based system may be the best solution.

Watch Video: Testing of our location systems

Click here to read the detailed abstract.

About the Study Authors

William H. Seiple, PhD, is Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse Guild and Professor of Ophthalmology at NYU School of Medicine, a Research Biologist at the VA in Chicago, Adjunct Professor at the School of Optometry at the State University of NY, Visiting Professor at the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science from Chicago and Visiting Professor at the University Pierre at Marie Curie, Paris, France.

Vishnu Nair, Christina Tsangouri
Department of Computer Science, The City College of New York (CUNY)

Bowen Xiao
Department of Computer Science, The City College of New York (CUNY), Academy of Engineering and Design Technology, Bergen County Academies

Greg Olmschenk, Zhigang Zhu
Department of Computer Science and the Graduate Center, The City College of New York (CUNY)

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