The BBeep is a suitcase and more developed in part by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University that helps visually impaired people navigate airport terminals.
“Despite recent efforts to improve accessibility, airport terminals remain challenging for people with visual impairments to navigate independently,” Chieko Asakawa, the IBM Distinguished Service Professor at CMU’s Robotics Institute, said in a news release.
“Airport and airline personnel are available to help them get to departure gates, but they usually can’t explore and use the terminal amenities as sighted people can,” Asakawa said.
As part of the university’s partnership with Pittsburgh International Airport, researchers have developed a special suitcase and smartphone app that helps people with visual disabilities to navigate airports.
The rolling suitcase, dubbed “BBeep” warns users of obstacles and helps blind people make their way through crowds at airports. It was developed by a team of researchers from CMU, the University of Tokyo and Waseda University.
BBeep is equipped with a camera and can track pedestrians in the user’s path and determine if there is a potential for a collision, warning both the user and those around to clear a path or stop to avoid a problem.
The app, NavCog, uses Bluetooth beacons, and was developed by CMU and IBM. It is already used at shopping malls and on college campuses, including CMU, but it was modified for use at an airport, where wide corridors make users vulnerable to veering, and on moving walkways that are the fastest way to get around a terminal.
The suitcase and app were tested at Pittsburgh International Airport and the researchers have presented their findings at CHI 2019, the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Glasgow, Scotland.