By Cailey Rizzo
May 08, 2019
Barry Winiker/Getty Images

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have developed a suitcase that could assist blind and visually-impaired travelers navigate airports more easily.

The suitcase, called Bbeep, sounds an alarm when an obstacle comes into its path, particularly useful when navigating through crowds. Using a camera, the suitcase is able to sense oncoming potential collisions and sounds an alarm. The alarm gets faster the closer the obstacle comes, alerting not only the user but other pedestrians who may otherwise be distracted or unaware. When a collision is imminent, the suitcase alerts a “stop” sound which informs the user to stop in their tracks.

Unfortunately, the suitcase is not (yet) available for sale.

The suitcase recently underwent testing at Pittsburgh International Airport where it was declared to significantly reduce the number of collisions or missteps for visually-impaired users.

The team also developed an app, NavCog, that uses Bluetooth technology to create a beacon system that helps users navigate their way through the airport terminal.

The beacons help the app provide audio directions around the airport, which includes detailed instructions to restrooms, restaurants, gates and ticketing counters. The app is able to determine a user’s location with less than 1.5 meters (less than 5 feet) of error. It is currently available on the app store for download.

“When you get a five- or six-hour layover and you need to get something to eat or use the restrooms, that is a major hassle,” a legally blind traveler who participated in a research focus group said in a statement. “It would be lovely to be able to get up and move around and do things that you need to do and maybe want to do.”

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