Navatar: Navigating Users With Little to No Sight in Indoor Spaces


Human Computer Interaction researcher Elke Folmer, based out of the University of Nevada, Reno, has developed an interior navigation system for people with little or no sight. Instead of relying on expensive sensing equipment or augmentations to the building in which the device is used, Navatar uses accelerometers, a low cost technology available in smartphones.
Indoor navigation is made more manageable by the infrastructure of the building. Users are limited by hallways and doors, and are less likely to veer as they would outdoors. Typically, to generate a precise layout of the area, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags are used. These devices combine an antenna and compass into a small package for use with other technologies. However, they are very expensive to implement. Navatar uses what’s known as Dead Reckoning, a less precise but less expensive technology, in conjunction with a virtual rendering of the building being navigated, and the users’ confirmation of the presence of tactile landmarks as they navigate. Using a virtual rendering created by such products as Google’s Sketchup, a user can receive step by step navigation via their phones.

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.