One of London’s tube stations will become more accessible for vision impaired and blind travelers by an amazing new Bluetooth setup.
According to a visually impaired researcher who worked on the project, Courteny Nugent, “when we go to stations, we have to wait around for assistance if there’s no assistant—waiting a considerable amount of time. We should be treated just the same as everybody else is treated.”
The app is called Wayfindr and it is currently being tested at Pimlico Station, London.
The app is the product of collaboration between Royal London Society for Blind People’s youth forum and Ustwo, a digital studio known for games like Monument Valley.
As the name Wayfindr suggest “Way Finder”, the app is quite simple to use; it comprises low-energy Bluetooth beacons that operate with a smartphone app to offer users audio directions as they pass through them and guide them around the platform. Users can also use bone conduction headphones that conduct sounds through the skull so that their normal hearing doesn’t get obstructed due to ears being blocked by the headphones.
When one beacon is approached, the instructions are received as “Follow the ramp down to the ticket hall,” or “You are approaching the end of the escalator.”
Nugent states: “It gives you enough information to be able to get down to the platform.” When Nugent, the 25-year old who lost her sight at the tender age of three, tested this app she felt the experience as amazing as she felt “like a normal citizen.”
The app doesn’t aim to replace traditional aids like guide dogs and canes but will offer help for navigational purposes. Tom Pey, RLSB’s CEO, compared the app to the signage you see around tube stations.
Initially, Ustwo tested the app above ground and got access to Pimlico via Transport for London. The associate UX director, Umesh Pandya, states that there are some potential challenges involved in going underground. He says, “The tunnels have got a curvature to them, so would the signal bounce around and get distorted?” Another concern was the footfall in tube stations as signals cannot travel so well across human bodies.
Watch how it works below:
Nonetheless, the trial was a success and both the RLSB and Ustwo now aim to expand the system more. Pandya explained that they purposefully used only currently available tech as most users have some sort of smartphone or headphones. This was done to keep the price tag low considering the prices of bespoke tech for the visually impaired can be high.