In a recent post, I reviewed apps that could be helpful for persons with a visual impairment in outdoor environments. Apps for navigating indoors are designed differently than apps for outdoor navigation in that they don’t use the GPS system because it is not reliable indoors and therefore not of much use for effective navigation inside buildings.
Here are 10 apps or devices that have been developed to help visually impaired or blind persons find their way indoors, along with the description of each app or device from their applicable app store or vendor.
(READ MORE: Look at this white paper on digital assistive wayfinding and navigation (DAWN) technologies.)
1. Be My Eyes
This app allows a sighted person to “be the eyes” for a blind person in need of help moving through an unfamiliar environment, and will work indoors or outdoors using a live video connection. Blind users can request help from a sighted person and the sighted users will then be called for help. As soon as the first sighted volunteer accepts the request for help, a live audio-video connection is set up between the two and the sighted user can tell the blind person what they sees when the user points their phone at something using the rear-facing camera. This app has been reviewed by the American Federation for the Blind.
Blavigator is a prototype vision system for persons with very low vision. A normal webcam connected to a portable computer or smartphone is worn at chest height. The computer analyzes the video frames to identify valid walking paths and obstacles just beyond the reach of a person’s white cane.
This wearable GPS receiver provides auditory location information and mapping tools to augment independent travel for people who are blind or visually impaired. To prepare for a journey, a user can choose a location almost anywhere in the world and virtually navigate to that place as though they were doing it in person. The device has a “look around” capability that automatically announces nearby streets, intersections and businesses in dozens of categories.
This small and discreet wearable device is for people who are blind or partially sighted. Buzzclip uses ultrasound to detect obstacles that may lie directly in one’s path. It then notifies the user of these obstacles through intuitive vibrations, allowing the user to safely navigate around any objects that they may encounter, including essential head level obstacle.
Float’s newest app, called Cydalion, works in indoor environments. It scans the surrounding area and gives augmented reality audio feedback to a person with a visual impairment who is wearing it. For a detailed discussion of the technology behind Cydalion, see the article by Pamela Hogle in Learning Solutions Magazine.
This app is the successor to an earlier navigation aid called The vOICe that was developed a few years ago. The EyeMusic app captures shapes and colors, and translates them into “soundscapes” – auditory representations of pictures. Colors are represented using different musical instruments, higher pixels of the image are translated into higher notes on a given musical instrument (i.e. higher pitches on the piano, trumpet or the violin) while lower pixels of the image are translated into lower notes on the same musical instruments.
With some of the same capabilities as Cydalion, this device from a Swiss company is currently being tested in Europe. The expected price is $2000, but that includes the pocket computer that runs the device, and the price will come down as this market becomes more competitive. If you are interested in this device, you need to get your name on their waiting list.
This indoor navigation app enables users to find their way around large meeting spaces and to always take the shortest route between two places. The user is guided by a combination of positioning algorithms, Bluetooth low-energy beacons, and a free mobile app on an iOS phone or tablet.
The PERCEPT system uses electronic tags mounted at specific landmarks determined by Orientation and Mobility instructors. PERCEPT includes real time interactivity, a gesture based user interface, and detailed navigation instructions.
10. The vOICe
This app uses augmented reality headphones to convert images and colors taken by a live camera into binaural sound. With training and practice a user who is blind can learn to navigate an indoor environment by listening to the AR feedback.
At Float we have incorporated the best of the features of each of the above solutions into our new Cydalion app. For a demo of Cydalion, or to discuss our custom development capabilities for other apps, please contact us.