Technology helps commuters with sight loss identify bus stops

The All_Aboard app was used by a group of blind and visually impaired commuters to locate bus stops in Boston

Two red double-decker buses are stopped side by side on the road.  In front of the buses, there is a cycle lane. Brown and white brick buildings line the street
Pixabay/Philipp Reiner

New research by Massachusetts Eye and Ear scientists has described technology that assists travellers with sight loss to locate bus stops.

Writing in Translational Vision Science & Technology, the researchers highlighted that existing navigation apps are insufficient for ‘micro-navigation’ tasks – such as finding the exact location of a bus stop.

“The resulting large gaps could lead to blind and visually impaired (BVI) travellers missing their bus,” the scientists shared.

Researchers recruited 24 legally blind participants to compare the performance of a signage detection mobile app, All_Aboard, in locating bus stops, with the use of Google Maps alone.

When using All_Aboard, study participants located the bus stops on average 91% of the time. This exceeded the performance of relying on Google Maps alone, which resulted in participants finding the bus stop 52% of the time.

The study involved locating 10 different bus stops in urban and suburban Boston, Massachusetts.

“Our evaluation was limited to the Boston metro area. However, we believe the accuracy of the app may not be significantly different in other regions given that the computer vision model training is fundamentally the same for all locations,” the authors shared.

The researchers highlighted that All_Aboard could serve as a complementary tool to macro-navigation services – such as Google Maps.

“The All_Aboard app together with a macro-navigation app can potentially help BVI individuals independently access public transportation,” the scientists concluded.