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San Francisco Airport Testing Beacon System For Blind Travelers 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the making-it-easier dept.
An anonymous reader points out this pilot program in San Francisco to help blind passengers better navigate the airport. San Francisco Airport is testing out location-aware beacons to help visually-impaired people navigate around one of its newest terminals, a program it could roll out to the rest of the airport if successful. An early version of the system was shown off to press today for use on Apple iOS devices, though SFO also plans to make it available for Android users and eventually expand the system to serve up information for those who can see. The beacons are coming from an indoor positioning company Indoo.rs and have been installed throughout the terminal. Each beacon will connect to a smartphone app to pop up with information when a user gets within range. For the visually impaired, the system uses Apple's Voiceover technology to read out points of interest as they come on screen, though an early version of the app also gives people visual cues for how to navigate to locations from a directory that can be sorted. That means you could tell it to help you find the nearest power outlet to juice your gear, or the nearest coffee shops to recharge your body.
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San Francisco Airport Testing Beacon System For Blind Travelers

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Out of curiosity, how do blind people use iOS or Android devices?

    • Re:iOS? Android? (Score:5, Informative)

      by milkmage (795746) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @08:26PM (#47596273)

      first they get the manuals.. in braille. then they turn on voiceover (it's baked in to iOS)

      lighthouse for the blind:

      http://lighthouse-sf.org/brail... [lighthouse-sf.org]

    • by dottrap (1897528)

      You can tell Siri to enable VoiceOver for you on iOS.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Out of curiosity, how do blind people use iOS or Android devices?

      iOS has VoiceOver that actually works pretty damn well for using iOS. So much so that the blind actually prefer using an iPhone and an iPad for their purposes than Android (which still has fairly poor accessibility especially across devices).

      Tommy Edison (Blind Film Critic) demonstrates how he uses the iPhone 4s - https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] - composing a tweet, browsing YouTube, etc.

      It is certainly unusual, but the blind have actually t

      • by awtbfb (586638)
        It is also quite straightforward to make your app VoiceOver friendly. The tricky part is managing some of the VoiceOver gestures. Aside from the equivalent of alt tags on images, the most important part is getting the step forward/backward and continuous scroll gestures working right in your app. Turn on VoiceOver, swipe down with two fingers and see what happens. Then swipe one finger left or right. If you've done your job right, the cursor will move in the order you expect. Scrolling on lists that go belo
  • mmmmm bacon (Score:5, Funny)

    by muphin (842524) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @08:33PM (#47596305) Homepage
    am i the only one who thought they were testing a bacon system...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      U are not. I pondered poking my remaining good eye out for a second!

    • by kentfowl (612507)

      am i the only one who thought they were testing a bacon system...

      Me too. I had envisioned this whole system where the smell of bacon leads them to their seat on the plane.

  • by Scottingham (2036128) on Sunday August 03, 2014 @09:12PM (#47596439)
    From what they say, it seems like it is going to be a pretty rough implementation at first. How would the system deal with multiple beacons?

    There is an Israeli research group doing research into using synthesizer timbres for navigation. I hope they collaborate.
    • Using signal strength you can get a rough estimate of which beacon is closest. With more than 2 beacons you can estimate your position relative to the beacons.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I read that as bacon.

  • That means you could tell it to help you find the nearest power outlet to juice your gear, or the nearest coffee shops to recharge your body.

    Or, you know, the way to your boarding gate. That may have been a slightly more pertinent example in this case.

    • But if they help the traveler leave, how will they extract more money out of them?
      Won't somebody think of the 'convenience' shops selling $10 candy?!
  • This really seems like an over-hyped, massively expensive technical solution to a problem that could easily be fixed with some volunteer organizations providing guides on an as-needed basis. Here's a thought: require all public high school students to provide X number of hours (start with 200) of public service as a requirement for graduation. Do something similar with college students receiving Federal student aid. Oh look, suddenly volunteers everywhere! And these volunteers can actually adapt to the need

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Here's a thought: require all public high school students to provide X number of hours (start with 200) of public service as a requirement for graduation.

      Why do you hate workers? Why do you love slavery? Why don't you want people to be paid for their work?

  • SFO is one of the worst offenders in the "poorly labeled airports" category. Even with good eyesight, it's a mess to navigate.

    Perhaps they can learn something from this project, and use it on sighted users as well.

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