Getting around airports can be challenging for people with good vision, let alone for those that can’t see. Now engineers at Carnegie Mellon University have partnered with Pittsburgh International Airport to develop a smart system that helps blind people safely get from place to place.
A smart suitcase, outfitted with a camera, is able to detect other people and objects nearby. It calculates walking trajectories and is able to predict possible collisions, generating beeps that sound evermore urgent the more imminent the collision. This lets both the user and people nearby make sure to avoid each other. “Sighted people will usually clear a path if they are aware of a blind person,” said Chieko Asakawa, a professor at Carnegie Mellon and someone who has been blind since age 14, who was involved in the study. “This is not always the case, as sighted people may be looking at their smartphone, talking with others or facing another direction. That’s when collisions occur.”
In addition to the suitcase, a special app was developed that can be used to find restrooms, restaurants, and other locations in the airport. Once the destination is chosen, the app can read out turn-by-turn directions as the person is walking to the place.
Here’s a Carnegie Mellon video about the BBeep project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdOK93aGdlI