Non-profit start-up Wayfindr has started trialing its digital navigation system for blind and partially sighted people at London Underground’s (LU) Euston Tube station in the UK.
Google has awarded a $1m grant to Wayfindr for establishing the first standardised guidelines for using smartphones to guide visually impaired people through urban environments.
A joint project between the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) and developer Ustwo, Wayfindr guides visually impaired people using audio directions given from a prototype smartphone app triggered by beacons installed in the stations.
That trial at Euston builds on a smaller test run carried out earlier this year at LU’s Pimlico station.
According to LU, the trial was initiated to find out if the system can work reliably across the Tube network and to test and refine Wayfindr’s standards for audio navigation.
Mayor Boris Johnson said: "The Wayfindr project is a great example of our wider work to improve accessibility in London, which includes hundreds of millions of pounds invested into step-free stations and new trains designed to be accessible to all."
Google has awarded grant to Wayfindr as part of the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities programme, which invites applications from projects that seek to solve problems for people living with disabilities through technology.
The investment will help accelerate the work of Wayfindr over the next three years.
Wayfindr hopes to use its findings from the Euston trial to launch the first Wayfindr Standard in early 2016.
Next year, Wayfindr intends to start trials in other urban settings, including shopping centres and hospitals.
LU capital programmes director David Waboso said: "Our trial at Euston is really putting the system through its paces, to see whether it can fulfil its promise at one of London’s busiest Tube stations.
"Ultimately, this innovative project is about giving our vision-impaired customers the flexibility to travel with the same independence and spontaneity as everyone else."
The Wayfindr Standard will be non-commercial and open for all to develop but will bring consistency to the design and user experience of digital navigation systems for vision impaired people.