skip to main content

Title: NavCog3 in the Wild: Large-scale Blind Indoor Navigation Assistant with Semantic Features
NavCog3 is a smartphone turn-by-turn navigation assistant system we developed specifically designed to enable independent navigation for people with visual impairments. Using off-the-shelf Bluetooth beacons installed in the surrounding environment and a commodity smartphone carried by the user, NavCog3 achieves unparalleled localization accuracy in real-world large-scale scenarios. By leveraging its accurate localization capabilities, NavCog3 guides the user through the environment and signals the presence of semantic features and points of interest in the vicinity (e.g., doorways, shops).To assess the capability of NavCog3 to promote independent mobility of individuals with visual impairments, we deployed and evaluated the system in two challenging real-world scenarios. The first scenario demonstrated the scalability of the system, which was permanently installed in a five-story shopping mall spanning three buildings and a public underground area. During the study, 10 participants traversed three fixed routes, and 43 participants traversed free-choice routes across the environment. The second scenario validated the system’s usability in the wild in a hotel complex temporarily equipped with NavCog3 during a conference for individuals with visual impairments. In the hotel, almost 14.2h of system usage data were collected from 37 unique users who performed 280 travels across the environment, for a total of 30,200m
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
ACM Transactions Accessible Computing
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Navigation assistive technologies have been designed to support individuals with visual impairments during independent mobility by providing sensory augmentation and contextual awareness of their surroundings. Such information is habitually provided through predefned audio-haptic interaction paradigms. However, individual capabilities, preferences and behavior of people with visual impairments are heterogeneous, and may change due to experience, context and necessity. Therefore, the circumstances and modalities for providing navigation assistance need to be personalized to different users, and through time for each user. We conduct a study with 13 blind participants to explore how the desirability of messages provided during assisted navigation varies based on users' navigation preferences and expertise. The participants are guided through two different routes, one without prior knowledge and one previously studied and traversed. The guidance is provided through turn-by-turn instructions, enriched with contextual information about the environment. During navigation and follow-up interviews, we uncover that participants have diversifed needs for navigation instructions based on their abilities and preferences. Our study motivates the design of future navigation systems capable of verbosity level personalization in order to keep the users engaged in the current situational context while minimizing distractions.
  2. Museums are gradually becoming more accessible to blind people, who have shown interest in visiting museums and in appreciating visual art. Yet, their ability to visit museums is still dependent on the assistance they get from their family and friends or from the museum personnel. Based on this observation and on prior research, we developed a solution to support an independent, interactive museum experience that uses the continuous tracking of the user’s location and orientation to enable a seamless interaction between Navigation and Art Appreciation. Accurate localization and context-awareness allow for turn-by-turn guidance (Navigation Mode), as well as detailed audio content when facing an artwork within close proximity (Art Appreciation Mode). In order to evaluate our system, we installed it at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and conducted a user study where nine blind participants followed routes of interest while learning about the artworks. We found that all participants were able to follow the intended path, immediately grasped how to switch between Navigation and Art Appreciation modes, and valued listening to the audio content in front of each artwork. Also, they showed high satisfaction and an increased motivation to visit museums more often
  3. People with visual impairments often have to rely on the assistance of sighted guides in airports, which prevents them from having an independent travel experience. In order to learn about their perspectives on current airport accessibility, we conducted two focus groups that discussed their needs and experiences in-depth, as well as the potential role of assistive technologies. We found that independent navigation is a main challenge and severely impacts their overall experience. As a result, we equipped an airport with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon-based navigation system and performed a real-world study where users navigated routes relevant for their travel experience. We found that despite the challenging environment participants were able to complete their itinerary independently, presenting none to few navigation errors and reasonable timings. This study presents the first systematic evaluation posing BLE technology as a strong approach to increase the independence of visually impaired people in airports.
  4. Background: Drivers gather most of the information they need to drive by looking at the world around them and at visual displays within the vehicle. Navigation systems automate the way drivers navigate. In using these systems, drivers offload both tactical (route following) and strategic aspects (route planning) of navigational tasks to the automated SatNav system, freeing up cognitive and attentional resources that can be used in other tasks (Burnett, 2009). Despite the potential benefits and opportunities that navigation systems provide, their use can also be problematic. For example, research suggests that drivers using SatNav do not develop as much environmental spatial knowledge as drivers using paper maps (Waters & Winter, 2011; Parush, Ahuvia, & Erev, 2007). With recent growth and advances of augmented reality (AR) head-up displays (HUDs), there are new opportunities to display navigation information directly within a driver’s forward field of view, allowing them to gather information needed to navigate without looking away from the road. While the technology is promising, the nuances of interface design and its impacts on drivers must be further understood before AR can be widely and safely incorporated into vehicles. Specifically, an impact that warrants investigation is the role of AR HUDS inmore »spatial knowledge acquisition while driving. Acquiring high levels of spatial knowledge is crucial for navigation tasks because individuals who have greater levels of spatial knowledge acquisition are more capable of navigating based on their own internal knowledge (Bolton, Burnett, & Large, 2015). Moreover, the ability to develop an accurate and comprehensive cognitive map acts as a social function in which individuals are able to navigate for others, provide verbal directions and sketch direction maps (Hill, 1987). Given these points, the relationship between spatial knowledge acquisition and novel technologies such as AR HUDs in driving is a relevant topic for investigation. Objectives: This work explored whether providing conformal AR navigational cues improves spatial knowledge acquisition (as compared to traditional HUD visual cues) to assess the plausibility and justification for investment in generating larger FOV AR HUDs with potentially multiple focal planes. Methods: This study employed a 2x2 between-subjects design in which twenty-four participants were counterbalanced by gender. We used a fixed base, medium fidelity driving simulator for where participants drove while navigating with one of two possible HUD interface designs: a world-relative arrow post sign and a screen-relative traditional arrow. During the 10-15 minute drive, participants drove the route and were encouraged to verbally share feedback as they proceeded. After the drive, participants completed a NASA-TLX questionnaire to record their perceived workload. We measured spatial knowledge at two levels: landmark and route knowledge. Landmark knowledge was assessed using an iconic recognition task, while route knowledge was assessed using a scene ordering task. After completion of the study, individuals signed a post-trial consent form and were compensated $10 for their time. Results: NASA-TLX performance subscale ratings revealed that participants felt that they performed better during the world-relative condition but at a higher rate of perceived workload. However, in terms of perceived workload, results suggest there is no significant difference between interface design conditions. Landmark knowledge results suggest that the mean number of remembered scenes among both conditions is statistically similar, indicating participants using both interface designs remembered the same proportion of on-route scenes. Deviance analysis show that only maneuver direction had an influence on landmark knowledge testing performance. Route knowledge results suggest that the proportion of scenes on-route which were correctly sequenced by participants is similar under both conditions. Finally, participants exhibited poorer performance in the route knowledge task as compared to landmark knowledge task (independent of HUD interface design). Conclusions: This study described a driving simulator study which evaluated the head-up provision of two types of AR navigation interface designs. The world-relative condition placed an artificial post sign at the corner of an approaching intersection containing a real landmark. The screen-relative condition displayed turn directions using a screen-fixed traditional arrow located directly ahead of the participant on the right or left side on the HUD. Overall results of this initial study provide evidence that the use of both screen-relative and world-relative AR head-up display interfaces have similar impact on spatial knowledge acquisition and perceived workload while driving. These results contrast a common perspective in the AR community that conformal, world-relative graphics are inherently more effective. This study instead suggests that simple, screen-fixed designs may indeed be effective in certain contexts.« less
  5. Indoor localization technologies can enhance quality of life for blind people by enabling them to independently explore and navigate indoor environments. Researchers typically evaluate their systems in terms of localization accuracy and user behavior along planned routes. We propose two measures of path-following behavior: deviation from optimal route and trajectory variability. Through regression analysis of real-world trajectories from blind users, we identify relationships between a) these measures and b) elements of the environment, route characteristics, localization error, and instructional cues that users receive. Our results provide insights into path-following behavior for turn-by-turn indoor navigation and have implications for the design of future interactions. Moreover, our findings highlight the importance of reporting these environmental factors and route properties in similar studies. We present automated and scalable methods for their calculation and to encourage their reporting for better interpretation and comparison of results across future studies