Talk Tuesday: Inside And Out With NavCog

Being a person who has a complete bad sense of direction, I am always getting excited about new technological advances in navigation, for visually impaired/blind individuals. There is Blind Square, Navigon, and Google Maps, just to name a few. However, these apps mainly focus on the outdoors, not buildings, which I really need, along with other people with visual impairments.
An IBM Computer Scientist and Carnegie Melon Researcher, Chieko Asakawa, is all too familiar with the challenges that independent traveling, while visually impaired/blind, can pose. Asakawa was very accurate when she said, “ Blind never take a walk just to clear their minds. It takes a lot of mental energy just to get around.” However, it is Asakawa’s aim to see this phenomenon change.
Coming to the rescue, Asakawa and some collaborators have developed a project called, NavCog. Similar to past efforts, Asakaw and her team have set up bluetooth emitters, aka beacons, across the Carnegie Melon campus. The goal is that with a smart phone app, the dispersed beacons and the bluetooth connected device would be able to communicate with each other, thus being able to give step by step directions to the user.
The user has the option to use vibration or voice narration, to tell them where to go. But, what makes this app different, is the aspiration to include facial recognition capabilities within the platform as well. The user would be able to identify faces in a crowd of people, as they pass by them. Asakawa’s hope is that technological advances keep furthering to the point, where visually/blind individuals, will be able to go into a coffee shop, and have their phone communicate with beacons. So, that they can easily locate the counter and find a table. If you would like to try the NavCog app, you can download it for free at the iTunes app store. Happy traveling!

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