Navatar Glass app may help blind individuals navigate indoor environments

Sep 30, 2013
Graduate student Illias Apostolopoulous, wearing Google Glass, works with associate professor Eelke Folmer on their Navater Glass app, a wearable computer technology developed at the University of Nevada, Reno to help the blind navigate indoor environments. Credit: Mike Wolterbeek, University of Nevada, Reno.

Navatar, a technology developed at the University of Nevada, Reno to help the blind navigate indoor environments, may become more usable, accurate and non-obtrusive using the popular wearable computing technology called Google Glass.

"As an extension of my research on , we will develop a Navatar Glass App designed to give users a more efficient way to navigate indoor spaces," Eelke Folmer, researcher and assistant professor in the University's College of Engineering, said. Folmer received a prestigious $40,000 Google Research Award, one of 105 awards out of 550 applicants.

Folmer, his colleague Kostas Bekris of Rutgers University (formerly of University of Nevada, Reno) and doctoral student Ilias Apostolopoulous had previously developed Navatar, a low-cost indoor navigation system for users who are blind. Navatar allows for localization and navigation by using the physical characteristics of , taking advantage of the unique sensing abilities of users with visual impairments, and utilizing minimalistic sensing achievable with low cost sensors available in smartphones.

Navatar will be modified to be used on Google Glass, a hands-free, head-mounted device that can be worn as eyewear. Using Google Glass will free up one of the user's hands while navigating, which may help with more accurately confirming the presence of landmarks along the provided path and improve the localization accuracy of the system.

"Our research is motivated by the belief that a disability can be turned into an innovation driver," Folmer, a computer-science and engineering department faculty member, said. "Similar to how Velcro was invented when mankind tried to put a man on the moon, I believe that when solving hard interaction design problems for users with unique, extreme abilities, such as blind users, there is a large potential for discovering solutions that may benefit anyone. Though Navatar was specifically developed for users with visual impairments, sighted users can also use it with a potentially higher localization accuracy."

Google Research Awards are one-year awards structured as unrestricted gifts to universities to support the work of world-class full-time faculty members at top universities around the world. Folmer's project was one of the three projects mentioned in the official announcement of these awards.

The Navatar on Glass project is a timely research project with a high social impact, as the number of blind people is expected to double in the next decade. This award will strengthen Folmer's collaborations with Google researchers and may open up internship opportunities for participating graduate students. Folmer's research is centered on human-computer interaction specifically focusing on assistive technology, wearable computing, haptics and video games.

Explore further: Sheriffs expand concerns about Waze mobile traffic app

More information: For more information about Folmer's research visit his website at eelke.com/

Related Stories

Scientists design indoor navigation system for blind

May 18, 2012

University of Nevada, Reno computer science engineering team Kostas Bekris and Eelke Folmer presented their indoor navigation system for people with visual impairments at two national conferences in the past ...

Students to explore filmmaking with Google Glass

Jul 30, 2013

Beauty is in the eye of the Google Glass wearer. At least that's what the Internet search giant hopes a handful of young filmmakers will discover. Google is enlisting film students from five colleges to help it explore how ...

Recommended for you

Sheriffs expand concerns about Waze mobile traffic app

1 hour ago

A law enforcement campaign to compel Google Inc. to disable a feature in its popular Waze traffic app that lets drivers warn others about nearby police activity shifted Wednesday when a sheriffs' organization ...

Mobile apps take students into the laboratory

5 hours ago

Mobile apps have proved to be valuable educational tools, but laboratory instructors thus far have been limited to using mobile devices only for virtual laboratories with simulated experiments. Now, researchers ...

Google's Waze app endangers police: LAPD chief

13 hours ago

Google's newly acquired Waze application poses a danger to police because of its ability to track their locations, the Los Angeles police chief said in a letter to the tech company's CEO.

Catch the northern lights with your mobile

Jan 26, 2015

Updates on the best opportunities to spot the Northern Lights in the UK are now available on a mobile phone app developed in association with scientists at Lancaster University.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tscati
not rated yet Oct 02, 2013
"Similar to how Velcro was invented when mankind tried to put a man on the moon"

Velcro was patented in 1955...in Switzerland...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.