QR Codes to help the blind and visually impaired in public transport

Île-de-France Mobilités, Keolis and the Valentin Haüy association are experimenting with NaviLens augmented reality QR code technology in Versailles.

Curious colored signs have appeared in recent weeks on train platforms and near bus stops at Versailles-Chantiers station. Behind these shimmering colored posters, hide not a new exhibition of contemporary street art, but giant QR codes to guide visually impaired people to orient themselves during their transport journeys. NaviLens technology, developed by a Spanish start-up, is currently being tested with visually impaired members of the Valentin Haüy association.

A guide route in QR codes

The network of QR codes is arranged along identified customer journeys. Geolocated, users have access to the information contained in the codes using a smartphone application. To capture these giant QR codes, however, there is no need to point a camera in any direction: NaviLens technology makes it possible to capture them at far distances, “several tens of meters», And at significant angles, simply by holding your smartphone in your hand. Once the QR codes have been scanned, the users of the application receive the information they contain through a voice announcement. For example, they will be able to identify the approaching buses, know the times of the next passages in real time, receive the description of a physical element, and guidance indications. All this should facilitate the continuation of their journey. Currently being tested around the Versailles-Chantiers station for the first time in France, NaviLens technology should make the movement of visually impaired people between the train platforms and the bus station more fluid.

A promising solution

Manuel Pereira, head of the accessibility pole within the Valentin Haüy association, which acts for the visually impaired, and himself suffering from a visual handicap, shares his enthusiasm. “It is a very promising solution», He rejoices, stressing the low maintenance it requires and its moderate cost. Manuel Pereira recounts the difficulties encountered by visually impaired people during their journeys to “knowing where the right branches are when connecting, knowing momentary obstacles or broken elevators for example“, So much information,”both static and in real timeThat the application can give. “She is even able to tell you if you are in the front or back door of the bus, it’s very clever», He explains. Only downside: having to hold your smartphone in your hand to capture the codes can be risky and is not very convenient when you already have to carry a cane or hold a guide dog on a leash.

Voice transmission in 33 languages

In addition to visually impaired travelers, NaviLens technology could also help foreign language tourists and travelers: the information contained in the QR codes can in fact be transmitted by the NaviLens GO application in thirty-three different languages. Outside the Paris region, the technology has already been used on public transport networks in several cities in Spain and the United States. Its experimentation in Versailles until July 2021 with a panel of visually impaired users will give rise to an evaluation of the routes supposed to allow users to gain autonomy during their journeys. Good news for the some 1.7 million blind and visually impaired people in France, two-thirds of whom live in a large metropolitan area, who will be able to benefit from the system if it becomes general.

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