How Indoor Navigation Systems Help the Visually Impaired?

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How Indoor Navigation Systems Help the Visually Impaired?

Technology aims at making life easier and more comfortable for us. After the invention of the GPS, indoor navigation systems came into place to help us navigate better indoors. It helped us to locate stores and find our way inside shopping malls and complex building structures.

However, when it comes to navigation, sighted people by default have it easy. We have the ability to look around, read signs that tell us which direction to take and notice landmarks. We can always find our way, with or without the help of maps or GPS, just by enquiring the people we see on the roads and in general, by our sense of direction.

Visually impaired people, on the other hand, find it immensely difficult to find their way even inside familiar buildings. Their lack of sight makes it impossible for them to know their exact location and getting to their destination on their own is a huge problem for the blind.

This is where indoor navigation system comes to the rescue. Technological advancements has helped companies like Jibestream to aid the visually challenged with super-responsive vocal map support.

While GPS-enabled smartphones already assist the visually challenged as they try to navigate across streets by giving vocal instructions, indoor navigation aims to provide the same assistance to guide them within the building.

This application determines the person’s exact location and establishes the coordinates on a predefined map. It then calculates all the possible routes to the destination and considers elevators, escalators, stairs, etc to reach the destination in the shortest or the easiest possible way. Then, it guides the user with the help of verbal cues. The smartphone has a compass to determine the direction in which the person is heading as well as the current location. The application also includes an accelerometer that calculates the speed in which the user is moving, in order to give better verbal instructions.

The user will be periodically asked to confirm the presence of certain physical objects such as doors or stairways to ensure that they are on track. This confirmation can be done by pressing a particular button on the smartphone which is easy to locate or the button in a Bluetooth handset. The confirmation can also be made verbally with the user answering the confirmation questions with a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to avoid unclear responses. This response, which is designed keeping in mind the objective to aid the visually challenged, helps the application to determine if the user is where the system thinks he is and to make corrections if he is not.

The application was tested with about 20 visually challenged people and the end results were more than satisfactory. The users were able to select their destination and walk there safely and independently, even when the destination was in a different room or floor.

Blind people need not be frustrated anymore about being unable to figure out the layout of complex buildings independently. Using the Indoor Mapping Technology, they can provide guidance to their sighted counterparts. They can go places on their own, relying on their smartphone and this technology will indeed be a life-altering invention for them.

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