Path Guide: Microsoft’s Research Project That Helps People Navigate Indoors

Path Guide home screen. The option

When blind people navigate, they can use various technologies that can guide them to their destination. While walking outdoors, their smartphone’s GPS can give them step by step directions. For indoors, there are some places that use Bluetooth beacons to provide step by step directions to help a blind person reach from point A to point B. Having said that, GPS apps don’t get any coverage inside buildings, and thus don’t work. So using the phone’s map inside is not a possibility. When it comes to Bluetooth beacons, there are very few buildings that have them.

We know how difficult it can be to navigate massive shopping malls, big buildings and offices, especially if it’s our first time there. Where’s the conference room in our new office? Where’s the coffee shop in the new mall that your friends want to meet you at? To help people navigate insidea building, Microsoft has been working on a low tech app that can guide people to their indoor destinations with step by step directions . The app, called Path Guide, kind of implements the “follow the leader” concept. It relies on one person taking charge to find the destination. As that person walks towards their destination, Path Guide uses their smartphone sensors to trace and record their steps. Once that person reaches their destination, they upload the directions to the cloud. Other people can now access and follow those directions through the app, and get to the same place without getting lost or asking a million people for directions. It also allows annotations during trace recording – people could add text, audio, and photos along the path, to provide more information to others.

As more people record and upload their directions, Path Guide can combine different paths and make the system even more useful. Also, by looking at all the uploaded paths, it would be easy to determine which path is the most popular, and can be recommended to users. This will increase the navigation experience for everyone.

Although this app is meant for everyone, it can be especially beneficial for people with visual impairment in places they have never visited before. Whether it’s a conference room in a new office building, a hall inside a university building, skyscrapers, or even specific aisles in big box stores – navigating to specific spots indoors can potentially become a breeze.

Path Guide, which is still in progress, is a research project, and may be a little rough around the edges sometimes. Microsoft hopes that you will use it, and provide feedback to the team that’s working on it.

For now, Path Guide is available only on Android, and can be downloaded directly from here.

Watch the video below to see Path Guide in action.

Image gallery:

Source: Microsoft via Fast Company

Website: Path Guide

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