University of Nevada, Reno computer science engineering team KostasBekris and Eelke Folmer presented their indoor navigation systemfor people with visual impairments at two national conferences inthe past two weeks. The researchers explained how a combination of human-computerinteraction and motion-planning research was used to build alow-cost accessible navigation system, called Navatar, which canrun on a standard smartphone. “Existing indoor navigation systems typically require the use ofexpensive and heavy sensors, or equipping rooms and hallways withradio-frequency tags that can be detected by a handheld reader andwhich are used to determine the user’s location,” Bekris, of theCollege of Engineering’s Robotics Research Lab, said. “This has often made the implementation of such systemsprohibitively expensive, with few systems having been deployed.” Instead, the University of Nevada, Reno navigation system usesdigital 2D architectural maps that are already available for manybuildings, and uses low-cost sensors, such as accelerometers andcompasses, that are available in most smartphones, to navigateusers with visual impairments. Semi Trailer King Pin
The system locates and tracks the user inside the building, findingthe most suitable path based on the users special needs, and givesstep-by-step instructions to the destination. “Nevertheless, the smartphone’s sensors, which are used tocalculate how many steps the user has executed and her orientation,tend to pick up false signals,” Folmer, who has developed exercisevideo games for the blind, said. “To synchronize the location, our system combines probabilisticalgorithms and the natural capabilities of people with visualimpairments to detect landmarks in their environment through touch,such as corridor intersections, doors, stairs and elevators.” Folmer explained that as touch screen devices are challenging touse for users with visual impairments, directions are providedusing synthetic speech and users confirm the presence of a landmarkby verbal confirmation or by pressing a button on the phone or on aBluetooth headset. A benefit of this approach is that the user can leave the phone intheir pocket leaving both hands free for using a cane andrecognizing tactile landmarks. Trailer Brakes Parts
“This is a very cool mix of disciplines, using the user as a sensorcombined with sophisticated localization algorithms from the fieldof robotics,” Folmer, of the University’s Computer ScienceEngineering Human-Computer Interaction Lab, said. The team is currently trying to implement their navigation systemin other environments and integrate it into outdoor navigationsystems that use GPS. “My research is motivated by the belief that a disability can beturned into an innovation driver,” Folmer said. “When we try to solve interaction design problems for the mostextreme users, such as users with visual impairments, there is thepotential to discover solutions that may benefit anyone. Though thenavigation system was specifically developed for users with visualimpairments, it can be used by sighted users as well.” For their work on the indoor navigation system for the blind,Bekris and Folmer recently won a PETA Proggy Award for Leadershipin Ethical Science. Special Fasteners
PETA’s Proggy Awards (“Proggy” is for”progress”) recognize animal-friendly achievements. The navigationsystem was deemed such an achievement because it could decrease theneed to rely on guide dogs. They presented and demonstrated their research at the IEEEInternational Conference on Robotics and Automation in St. Paul.,Minn.
on May 15 and on May 7 at the CM SIGCHI Conference on HumanFactors in Computing Systems, which is the premier internationalconference on human-computer interaction.