Path to independence

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Posted July 17, 2013
"Like getting your driver's licence." - Megan Taylor. Photo: Britta Campion

“Like getting your driver’s licence.” – Megan Taylor. Photo: Britta Campion

Smartphones, equipped with the latest in mapping software and GPS technology, have made “finding your way” as simple as swiping your finger.

But there are limits. As anyone who has attempted to use GPS indoors knows, signals are often obstructed and ineffective. Extending navigation to all environments is the next big challenge.

Google is leading industry heavyweights in trying to find solutions to this problem. It’s already rolled out indoor navigation “maps” for major airports, museums and shopping centres in the US, and in March launched its Australia product.

At UNSW, researchers from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering are taking the concept even further – opening up the technology to the almost one million Australians living with some form of vision impairment.

Megan Taylor trialling the app, watched by developers Thomas Gallagher and Binghao Li . Photo: Britta Campion

Megan Taylor trialling the app, watched by developers Thomas Gallagher and Binghao Li . Photo: Britta Campion

Their approach relies on the fusion of sensor data from the phone, including wi-fi signals, and existing indoor maps like those available on the Android platform. The team presented the research at an international conference on Indoor Mapping and Navigation hosted by UNSW last year.

“This is going to give people with blindness and vision impairment a new level of independence. It is literally like having your best friend beside you, who knows where you’re going and how to get there,” says trial participant Megan Taylor, who has a condition that has left her with no vision in her left eye and only 3% vision in her right.

Read the full story in the latest issue of Uniken.

Source: The University of New South Wales

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