Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Smart Suitcase Helps Blind People Navigate Airports

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a smart suitcase that can help blind people navigate airport terminals safely and independently. The suitcase sounds an alarm when there is an impending collision. Paired with a navigation app that provides turn-by-turn instructions, the smart suitcase has proven to be a smart solution for blind people trying to move around an airport.


"Despite recent efforts to improve accessibility, airport terminals remain challenging for people with visual impairments to navigate independently," says Chieko Asakawa, professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotic's Institute. 




From the Carnegie Mellon University  article: "BBeep helps clear a path. A rolling suitcase itself can help clear the way and can serve as an extended sensing mechanism for identifying changes in floor texture. BBeep, however, can also sound an alarm when collisions are imminent — both warning the user and alerting people in the area, enabling them to make room. A series of beeps begins five seconds before collision. The frequency of the beeps increases at 2.5 seconds. When collision is imminent, BBeep issues a stop sound, prompting the blind user to halt immediately.

In tests at the airport, six blind participants each wheeled BBeep with one hand and used a white cane in the other as they maneuvered through crowded areas. They were asked to walk five similar routes in three modes — one where the suitcase gave no warnings, another in which the warnings could only be heard by the user through a headset and another in which warnings were played through a speaker. A researcher followed each participant to make sure no one was injured.

The researchers said the speaker mode proved most effective, both in reducing the number of pedestrians at risk of imminent collision and in reducing the number of pedestrians in the user's path."


Read more about the smart suitcase that helps blind people navigate airports at Carnegie Mellon University