Helping visually impaired people navigate the “last 10 yards” with a smartphone

Developing Optinav

Approximately two million people in the UK have a severe visual impairment. This can create many problems in accessing information and in navigating around the environment. GPS on smart phones can only take you to an approximate location, where someone with a visual impairment may find it difficult to find the entrance.

Researchers in the Human-Computer Interaction Group at the University of York worked with Spiral Scratch, winners of a Technology Strategy Board (TSB) competition, to create a smart phone app to allow visually impaired people to navigate the "last ten yards" to their destination.

  • Developed by the Human-Computer Interaction research group.
  • Researchers included Helen Petrie, Chris Power and Dave Swallow.
  • Technology: Smartphone app, currently available on iOS.
  • Impact: The smartphone app will allow visually impaired users to navigate to the exact location: for example, finding the entrance to a building through the use of the clock face concept ("your destination is at three o'clock") and Google Streetview. The app will continue to be developed for use inside large buildings such as airports, railway stations and shopping centres.
  • Commercialisation of the research: The smartphone app, Optinav, is still in development in collaboration with Spiral Scratch, funded by the Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK).