Navigation for blind

 

According to the data provided by the World Health Organisation, there are estimated to be around 285 million visually impaired people around the world, of which over 30 million people live in Europe.

 

Everyday navigation using mobile applications seems like an easy solution for us, but the same can be very frustrating for blind people. They have to go through dozens of menu options before they reach the one they want. It's not just apps, but also the environment isn’t adapted for visually impaired people and they need an efficient, safe and easy way to commute.

 

This project was about finding a way that helps them in everyday situations, but also when they find themselves in new, unexplored areas. 

The challenge

Empathising with the users

 

Our user targets are visually impaired people and their helpers. A helper can be any person that has the will to help others; it could be a relative or a friend of a visually impaired person, but also any other volunteer.

No matter how much you try to understand your user problems, you might miss things because you do not experience it yourself and that was our fear while dealing with our user group.

 

During our research, we discovered the main problems our users face at the moment are:

 

..incompatible UI for navigation apps,
..moments of confusion when they lose GPS signal,
..unreliable information about accessibility,

User Research

Field research and interviews

Having in mind that “getting into users shoes” is an important component of every project, we had contacted the local community, had interviews with potential users and send out questionnaires to try to understand how everyday life is for them.

 

To experience a day in blind person's life, we went to Dialogo nel buio, where participants are blindfolded and taken on a trip through various settings to understand how blind people experience the same things we experience every day. How much they rely on their other senses like sound, touch and smells. This experience was very enlightening and we met people interested in the projects and also prospect users, with whom we did small prototypes and user tests afterwards.

Insights

 

General:

Smartphone usage

App as a support

Different needs

Simplicity/user-friendly

 

Input preferences:

Braille

Audio

Customizable

Avoid too many stimuli 

Final Concept

Solution

 

Take me there is a navigation solution design for daily commute for users with visual disability. It comes if different colour cues depending on the type of disability.

As an add on you can also pair it with your Dot watch to receive braille cues rather than audio. Even though using with the wearable will be considered more efficient, this solution can be used irrespective of the wearable.

Implementation

User Interface design

After launching our application, the user can choose if he/she is a blind user or a helper user. After choosing the type of user, he/she is forwarded into 2 slightly different user interfaces.

The user interface for visually impaired users was designed having in mind the specific requirements of visually impaired people. It is designed to work with screen reader applications, such as VoiceOver and Talkback application, and the design is kept simple to ensure easy and intuitive user experience. It provides the visually impaired users real-time help and customization of navigation routes.

The main point of the helper interface is a rewarding system that should motivate users to help more often.

For the helper profile, authentication will be needed so we can assure a safe system, while for blind users it's important that no private information gets disclosed.

Software architecture

The routing algorithm is based on data received from open source maps (Open Street Maps) and it focuses on pedestrian paths. The base of the routing algorithm is defining the proper criteria and giving them weights, which define how far are we from preferred values. Technologies used in this implementation are Overpass Turbo (for Open Street Maps data querying), PostGIS (the spatial database containing the wanted information), pgRouting (an extension for PostGIS geospatial database that provides routing functionalities) and additional QGIS desktop application (provides and supports viewing, analysing and editing geospatial data).

An important problem encountered while working on software implementation is a lack of tagged data that could provide better route calculations.

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