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Navigating With Smartphones

March 22, 2012

A combination of smartphones, GPS and radar could help the blind navigate the cities of the future.



Seeing-eye smartphones…I’m Bob Hirshon, and this is Science Update.

People who are blind or visually impaired have traditionally relied on a cane or a service animal to get around. Now, researchers in Austria are hoping to expand their navigation options with the help of smartphones. Engineer Hans-Georg Frantz of the University of Applied Sciences in Kapfenberg explains.

HANS-GEORG FRANTZ (University of Applied Sciences, Kapfenberg):

We want to help people to find their way on their own between their home and their target.


It works like this – the user tells the smartphone where he or she wants to go. Once outdoors, a GPS onboard the device guides the user to the correct public transportation stop, and the phone notifies the user when the desired vehicle has arrived. And when navigating indoors, radar on the user’s shoe picks up location signals from computer chips placed throughout the building. Frantz says the system has been demoed in several cities, and will be integrated into the new Vienna Central Station in 2015. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Vienna's new Central Station (currently under construction), will be embedded with RFID chips, which will transmit location information to blind and visually impaired travelers (Herbert Ortner/Wikimedia Commons)