Technology has the potential to improve accessibility by offering directions and guidance, but some remain skeptical.
A blind person is traveling on the subway. The train they’re riding on pulls into a stop, the doors open and the person exits. Waiting there on the platform, to help guide them through the station, is a robot.
“Making a robot do that, there are some challenges, but it’s not as challenging as it used to be,” said Aaron Steinfeld after describing the scenario involving the guide-bot during a recent interview. Steinfeld is an associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh, where he specializes in human-robot interaction.
He and others are working on a project that aims to incorporate robots, smartphones, mobile applications and crowdsourced information into a system that can help blind people navigate complicated and unfamiliar urban environments, such as transit stations.
“If you have a disability, it can be rather difficult to just get up and go somewhere because of the planning and the information that you need at your disposal,” Steinfeld said. “That’s where information technology and assistive robot systems could really shine.”
Though it is not the only challenge blind people and others with limited vision face when moving around in big cities, navigating a subway system can among the toughest, especially for those who don’t do it often. The robotics research taking place at Carnegie Mellon is just one example of how technologists, nonprofits and transit agencies are looking for ways to make that experience easier.

Before Bots, Beacons

While the guide-bot research is still in its early stages, a different effort with a similar goal is unfolding in Washington, D.C. If it goes according to plan, there could be new devices to help blind people find their way through Metrorail stations before the end of summer……..
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Source: CityLab