Existing GPS systems are already useful navigation aids for the visually impaired, but these systems have inadequacies that reduce their practical worth and applicability. In the project Improved GPS for the visually impaired, we want to identify these inadequacies and so improve the quality of GPS systems for pedestrians.
Story by: Magne Lunde - 07.06.2012
Much remains to be done in relation to increasing the usefulness of GPS systems for pedestrians in general, and for the visually impaired in particular. We therefore wish to examine what it takes to further develop and improved GPS technology. We will particularly focus on the blind and severely visually impaired, but assume that improved 'pedestrian support "will be useful for a far wider user group.
One of the main challenges of current solutions is that although they can be used in pedestrian mode, they are primarily designed for driving. Which improvements will make GPS more useful for pedestrians? An identified problem is that pedestrian, cycle and hiking paths are not mapped, so GPS may give dangerous instructions to visually impaired users, leading them out on to main roads, or roundabouts instead of pedestrian subways. A number of GPS systems also lack geodata such as traffic lights, barriers and stairs which visually impaired need to know about.
This is another challenge for visually impaired. There are often many options, particularly in an open area, and althoug GPS does indicate direction, it may not allow you to change direction until you have gone quite far the wrong way. We want to find better solutions with regard to choosing direction, particularly in large open areas.
The pilot project supported by IT Funk and will continue throughout the year 2012. The main aim is to propose geodata and improved feedback that will then be used in the development of new GPS solutions for visually impaired. During the pilot project we will assess whether the proposed improvements require further work in a main project. MediaLT is leading this project, and the other project participants are: Synshemmede Akademikere – SAF (visually impaired academics), The Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted -NABP, Norwegian Mapping Authority, Huseby Resource Centre, The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organization, University of Oslo and Østfold University College.