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App to help people who are blind navigate airports

Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University researchers say a smart suitcase that warns users who are blind of impending collisions and a wayfinding smartphone app can help people with vision disabilities navigate airport terminals safely and independently. 

The rolling suitcase sounds alarms when users are headed for a collision with a pedestrian, and the navigation app provides turn-by-turn audio instructions to users on how to reach a departure gate – or a restroom or a restaurant. Both proved effective in a pair of user studies conducted at Pittsburgh International Airport. 

CMU and Pittsburgh International Airport are partners in developing new systems and technologies for enhancing traveler experiences and airport operations.

The app NavCog, developed by CMU and IBM to help people with vision disabilities navigate independently, previously has been deployed on campuses, including CMU, and in shopping malls.

They modified it for use at the airport, where extremely wide corridors make users vulnerable to veering, and for use with moving walkways. As part of the project, the airport installed hundreds of Bluetooth beacons throughout the facility.

Watch the NavCog App demonstration video:

For more information visit the Cognitive Assistance Lab.