App makes commute easier for those with sight loss

The Commute Booster app uses computer vision technology to read signs – helping people with sight loss navigate the underground

A woman dressed in black carrying a white tote bag stands with her back to the camera on a subway platform. A yellow, blurred subway train moves at speed in front of her
A new app developed by researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and New York University Grossman School of Medicine aims to help commuters with sight loss navigate the subway.

The Commute Booster app is described in the IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine.

The app automatically identifies what subway signs a commuter will encounter on their journey. The smartphone camera is used to recognise and interpret relevant signs.

When tested in three New York subway stations, the app proved to be 97% accurate in identifying signs that were relevant to reaching the intended destination, and had a maximum detection range of 11 metres.

Advisers from the New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority provided input on the app’s development.

The researchers highlighted that the assistive tool “holds great promise for assisting people with blindness and low vision in their daily commute.”

They plan on conducting a study where participants with sight loss navigate using Commute Booster in the near future.