Kennis&innovatie virtuele geleide app.jpg

Virtual guide app shows the way

Expertise organization Bartiméus has been committed to people with a visual impairment since 1915. For as long as it has existed, the foundation has searched for new ways to make the daily lives of blind or partially sighted people as pleasant as possible. In collaboration with Geodan, Bartiméus developed the virtual guide app: an indoor navigation app that uses new 3D technology to help blind and partially sighted people find their way independently.

What is it and how does it work?

The virtual guideline app developed by Bartiméus and Geodan can generate a 3D model of a particular space in no time at all by ‘measuring’ the space, as it were. The app can also determine the position and orientation of the user by means of Augmented Reality technology (AR), which uses several sensors that can be found on many a smartphone, such as the camera, motion sensor and depth sensor. The virtual guideline app lets users create routes through any given building and follow them with the app, from hospitals to train stations, or even Schiphol!

How does Geodan help?

“During the pilot phase, we tested several indoor walking routes in the Bartiméus offices in Zeist”, says Erik van der Zee, Business Consultant at Geodan. “The virtual guideline is based on Google Tango technology, which uses the SLAM principle, or Simultaneous Localization And Mapping. This technology is supported by the Asus Zenfone AR, a very intelligent smartphone that uses its camera and sensors to create a 3D model of the environment. By comparing such a model with previously made 3D (reference models) in real time, the smartphone can learn your position in a certain space and figure out what way you are moving. It can then map out a route by adding virtual markers to the 3D model and connecting them to each other. Using vibrations, spoken instructions, sounds and the visualized route, the app then guides you in the right direction.

“It is our dream to use the app to make blind and partially sighted people as independent as possible”

Paul de Nooij, project leader at Bartiméus

Easy and intuitive

“We asked various people with a visual impairment to test our prototype”, says Paul de Nooij, project leader at Bartiméus. “Everyone is very excited about the app’s potential, and we have noticed that people tend to understand how to use it quite intuitively and quickly.”

Available for everyone?

In October 2018, 5 people with a visual impairment started testing the latest version of the app in their daily lives, and we will determine how to continue developing the app this spring. Paul: “In the meantime, we are keeping a close eye on the potential of the technology, and we are exploring whether technology has developed to the point where the virtual guide app will also work on standard smartphones. It is our dream to make this app accessible for everyone, allowing them to find their way in buildings entirely independently. That’s our way of contributing to a more inclusive society.”

To find out more about what this app can do, check out the video.