Getting one's bearings in public buildings is not easy. We have to navigate across numerous corridors and stairs. People swarm back and forth. We also need to be careful on steps, with doors that are difficult to open, and to avoid obstacles or temporarily inaccessible areas. Sometimes an elevator is broken and thus a familiar way is blocked. However, we take a look at signs or a map of the building and at our surroundings. That way we find the hints that lead us to our destination. But what do we do if we cannot see all this?
Then we are going to put on headphones!
With help from two blind students and in cooperation with Leipzig University, appPlant is developing a voice-controlled application for indoor-navigation with mobile devices. This app functions sensor-based, thus independent of the internet or GPS, and operates on daily updated layouts of public buildings.
This is how it is going to work: If you enter the university using the application, it will recognize the lecture building and upload a map of possible paths effective on this particular day.
There is going to be a continuous transition between navigation outdoors and indoors.
The app will calculate ways depending on which entrances are closed, which elevators are defective or where a scaffold is erected: Every detail important for blind people to be able to orient themselves inside the building is going to be taken into account. The app will lead its user by gentle voice output to the lecture hall he or she seeks. It will find the path to the next exit. It will describe the way to the work station designed for vision impaired people in the seminar room.
If respective data has been entered in advance, the app will also include special requirements regarding the individual user in its calculations, for example whether it is utilized by a person with a guide-dog or by someone who is using a cane.
And if you feel lost at one point, the app will describe your current environment.
This pathfinder for blind people will be applicable in every public building that participates and provides the necessary infrastructure. Operators are going to be able to update the building’s layout and input current information via the app’s back end.
That way, public organizations will facilitate inclusion of vision impaired citizens and improve on meeting the requirements for accessibility defined by the United Nations Agreements on Human Rights in 2008.