Bluetooth beacons could help blind people navigate the Tube (Wired UK)


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Blind and partially sighted people could soon be navigating
the London Underground without
assistance thanks to an innovative new system of Bluetooth beacons and bone-conduction
earphones.

A trial of the technology is underway at Pimlico station, with
16 Bluetooth beacons providing pin-point accurate indoor location
mapping in conjunction with a smartphone app that delivers audio
instructions. It is hoped that the technology could one day be
expanded to the whole London transport network, allowing blind and
partially sighted people to navigate the city independently.

The system, known as Wayfindr, uses location data from Bluetooth
beacons to locate where a person is and then deliver audible
directions through bone conduction earphones. This allows the
wearer to continue hearing sounds around them while still receiving
directions.

Wayfindr has been developed as an open platform and if the trial
proves successful it will be opened up to other developers. During
the trial it will provide directions similar to those found on
station signage, with blind and partially sighted people still
advised to use a cane or assistance dog to help them navigate
stations.

Wayfindr (RLSB + ustwo)millsustwo

The scheme was
first announced last year
 and is the result of a
collaboration between digital studio ustwo and the Royal London
Society for Blind People’s Youth Forum. London Underground has
joint-funded a month’s testing of the system, which will see a
selection of young vision impaired Londoners use it to navigate
Pimlico Tube station.

The RLSB’s Youth Forum played a key role in developing the
system, providing feedback and explaining the challenges they
faced. Courtney Nugent, a Youth Forum member, said the technology
was “awesome” and made her feel free when using the
Underground.

The trial has been running since early February and will
continue until 13 March. London Underground said the information
and feedback collected would help it better understand how the
technology could be implemented more widely on its network.

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6 March 2015 | 2:34 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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