Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh have designed a suitcase to help blind people circumvent impending collisions. Furthermore, a wayfinding smartphone app has also been invented for visually disabled people to help them navigate independently on airport terminals. The suitcase and the smartphone app work in tandem, the suitcase is equipped with alarms and signals users when they are headed for a collision with a pedestrian. On the other hand, the navigation app directs users via audio to the departure gate, or to a restaurant or a restroom. Practical implications of the experiment were carried out at Pittsburg International Airport.
A large number of airports are upgrading their functions by installing Bluetooth beacons. Although these functions are improving indoor navigation, they are highly in favor of sighted travelers and not the blind. The blind travelers especially face a problem during long hour layovers, and they feel it is challenging especially when they have to use the restroom or go to a restaurant. The navigation app is designed by researchers at CMU and IBM and has been previously tested on blind people from the CMU campus and also in shopping malls. The results of the app were successful and the app was then modified for airport use. For an effective and hassle-free use at airport where the corridors are much wider which make users more vulnerable to veering, an annotated map of the terminal with locations of restrooms, entrances, ticketing counters, etc., gives audio directions to the users. Reports also suggest, that ten legally blind people were tested using the app with iPhone 8. Most users were able to reach the ticketing counter in three minutes and could traverse the terminal in about six minutes. They were also able to go from the gate to a restroom in a minute’s time and reach a restaurant from the gate in about four minutes.
This research will be announced at CHI 2019, an association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. The event will take place in Glasgow, Scotland from May 4-9. CMU and Pittsburgh International Airport are known for their innovative experiments in developing new systems and technologies, their central focus is to elevate experiences for travels and to improve airport operations.