Wayfinding Technologies for People with Low Vision

Our laboratory is participating in a major project with partners at several other institutions. Here is a brief description. 

Consortium Partners: 

Sendero Group 
Smith-Kettlewell Institute for Visual Sciences 
University of California at Santa Barbara 
Carnegie-Melon University 
Western Michigan University 
University of Minnesota 

Funding Agency

U.S. Dept of Education / Nat. Inst. For Disability Res. And Rehab. Project Dates: 2008-2012 

Overview of Minnesota role 

Imagine you are blind or have low vision and you are navigating through a building. Suppose that you have already solved the mobility problem using a cane, guide dog or your own low vision, but you have great difficulty in reading room numbers or nearby signs, or identifying landmarks. Outdoors, you use a GPS-based navigation device to solve wayfinding problems, but in a large office building, the GPS signal is not available, and no appropriate geographical database exists. 

What you need is an integrated system that seamlessly and efficiently provides you with the two key types of information indoors and outdoors: your current position, and the functional characteristics of the indoor or outdoor space. 

The University of Minnesota team will concentrate on extending our wayfinding system to indoor environments. The goals of this part of the project are 1) to adapt technology for reliably determining a pedestrian's indoor position and 2) provide the pedestrian with useful wayfinding information about the indoor environment. 

In preliminary work, the Minnesota team has begun addressing the problem of indoor position using machine vision and a system of simple coded signs (similar to bar codes.) A goal of the project will be to develop a working prototype of this "digital sign system (DSS), and test it with human subjects. In addition, the Minnesota team will work with Smith Kettlewell and Sendero to compare and contrast the merits of the DSS system for indoor positioning with Talking Signs and dead-reckoning technology. 

The Minnesota team will also participate in development of databases for indoor environments, analogous to geographical databases for outdoor environments. 

In addition to its work on technology and software development, the Minnesota team will carry out human research on wayfinding in indoor environments to test the functionality of indoor positioning technology, indoor database design, and interface issues. The design and execution of these experiments will benefit from collaboration with partners at WMU and UCSB who will be conducting similar human research in outdoor environments.