Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Using Personal Data to Configure Navigation Support for Blind and Partially Sighted People

  Ahmed Al-Talabany (2016 cohort)   www.nottingham.ac.uk/~psxafa

Being able to navigate is an important part of everyday life and difficulties in being able to do so are likely to affect people's opportunities for work and social inclusion and participation in general. However, blind and partially sighted people (BPSP) face difficulties when they navigate because of partial or complete loss of sight which leads to difficulties in planning and space representation, positioning and orientation while navigating. Although modern technology offers means to help improve their ability to navigate independently [1]. However, there is no currently available navigation system that is both universal and personal [2] to aid the navigation of BPSP based on their particular individual needs and preferences. Indeed, routing algorithms typically inherited from the navigation systems tend to emphasise speed and efficiency over the selecting routes that BPSP might find easiest or most safe to actually follow. For BPSP, safety and independency of orientation and mobility are more important [3] than distance and time of a journey. Hence, it is important to investigate whether working with BPSP's navigation related personal data both at individual and group levels, can be used to satisfy and support their navigation needs in outdoor environments.

The aims of this research are: 1- To investigate the factors that influence the route selection strategy of BPSP and their natures. 2- To establish whether the combination of existing mapping and positioning technology, can be used to build a navigation system which meets the needs of BPSP. 3- To design and test a navigation system for BPSP which incorporates crowdsourced route choices, identified route selection factors and relevant individual user preferences.

The first stage of the research involves understanding the navigation requirements of BPSP as well as investigating the factors that influence their route selection strategy based on literature review and interviews. Cognitive Task Analysis technique was used in the form of Semi-structured interviews with 20 blind and partially sighted adults to capture rich data about BPSP’s navigation experience. In addition, 10 sighted adults were interviewed using the same technique for comparison. Having the data from both the literature review and the interviews, it can be investigated how the navigation requirements of BPSP in the form of ontology-based and computer-recognised format user profiles be incorporated in the navigation system’s algorithm. The next stage will be describing a state-of-the-art low-cost navigation system that accommodate the described navigation requirements of BPSP. Finally, prototyping and testing an implementation of the developed model against the current state of the art navigation system using different techniques applicable to BPSP.

The contributions of this research to the knowledge are: 1- Enhancing the navigation of BPSP in a new way by considering multiple users' personal data in the route selection and navigation in general and considering smartphone as a practical and low-cost device to provide a safe and pleasant navigation for BPSP. 2- Exploring how crowdsourced route information can be used to design/feed algorithms that emphasise factors other than speed and efficiency (i.e., those that match the profiled needs of BPSP and which emphasise ease and safety) and how users can interact with the resulting routes in navigation itself.


[1] M. C. Rodriguez-Sanchez, M. A. Moreno-Alvarez, E. Martin, S. Borromeo, and J. A. Hernandez-Tamames, "Accessible smartphones for blind users: A case study for a wayfinding system," Expert Syst. Appl., vol. 41, no. 16, pp. 7210-7222, Nov. 2014.

[2] V. Renaudin, A. Dommes, and M. Guilbot, "Engineering, Human, and Legal Challenges of Navigation Systems for Personal Mobility," IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 177-191, Jan-2017.

[3] K. Bozeman et al., O&M For Independent Living Strategies for teaching Orientation and Mobility to Older Adults. New York, New York, USA: AFB Press, 2015.

This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No. EP/L015463/1) and Satellite Applications Catapult and Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).