Indoor navigation and communication in public transport for the blind and visually impaired
Original Language Title: Indoor Navigation und Kommunikation im ÖPNV für Blinde und sehbeeinträchtigte Personen
Blindness is just a restriction on information, not on mobility, and can be overcome as far as possible by implementation of relevant information systems. The greatest part of this information deficit can be bypassed through autonomous positioning and navigation of visually impaired people as well as the information regarding the position and route of the vehicles of public transport. However, commercial navigation systems do not achieve the accuracy that is necessary for a visually impaired person to navigate without further assistance. This is especially true for the indoor case, where no GNSS is available. Outdoors, different methods based on improved GNSS processing exist which are able to achieve the needed accuracy. Especially beyond the reach of GNSS no commercially available navigation system exists which incorporates real-time information of the vehicles of public transport into a reliable pedestrian navigation system.
The goal of the consortium is to realize such an application based on modules developed within preliminary projects for the mobile mass market, which operates independent of constructional situations and available infrastructure and which is internationally deployable. Via a proper user interface that fits the needs of visually impaired people, a blind user shall be able to independently use public transport in a secure way and to orientate within complex public transport terminals. Therefore, the system combines real-time communication to and from vehicles of public transport with accurate positioning and guidance and also features additional navigational aid. With the module “Request help” an acquaintance or professional operator can be contacted via video call. The contacted person may then access the camera of the smartphone (or other devices such as Google Glass) and give dedicated guidance instructions from the perspective of the blind person. For a better orientation, also the current position and the planned route are transferred besides the video feed. Additionally, a call can be translated in near real-time to any other language if the two conversational partners do not speak the same language. This opens up the application for foreign users to its full extent.
Parallel to the navigational aids the visually impaired person receives, also the driver of the vehicle of public transport gets a notification on his onboard computer if a blind person is intended to get on or off the vehicle. This makes the driver aware of the situation he would otherwise potentially overlook so that he can act accordingly, e.g., keep the doors open for an extended period of time to ensure the safety of the blind person. Due to the feature diversity of the developed system its target audience may further be expanded by elderly people (e.g., dementia patients or generally insecure persons), locally unfamiliar tourists and even deaf people to grant them safety and confidence when using vehicles of public transport. The system has been evaluated rudimentarily within preliminary projects, however the barrier-free combination with real-time routing information and the implementation of the "Request help" module has not been solved yet and is subject of this research project.