[nfbwatlk] Transit Guide-Bots for Blind Passengers?, Route Fifty presented by Government Executive, May 17 2015

Nightingale, Noel Noel.Nightingale at ed.gov
Mon Jun 15 21:06:35 UTC 2015



Transit Guide-Bots for Blind Passengers?
By Bill Lucia
May 17, 2015

An assistive robotics project is exploring how advanced technology could make it easier for people with visual impairments to navigate cities.

A blind person is traveling on the subway. The train they're riding on pulls into a stop, the doors open and the person exits. Waiting there on the platform, to help guide them through the station, is a robot.

"Making a robot do that, there are some challenges, but it's not as challenging as it used to be," said Aaron Steinfeld after describing the scenario involving the guide-bot during a recent interview. Steinfeld is an associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh, where he specializes in human-robot interaction.

He and others at the university are working on a project that aims to incorporate robots, smartphones, mobile applications and crowdsourced information into a system that can help blind people navigate complicated and unfamiliar urban environments, such as transit stations.

"If you have a disability, it can be rather difficult to just get up and go somewhere because of the planning and the information that you need at your disposal," Steinfeld said. "That's where information technology and assistive robot systems could really shine."

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