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Fujitsu, NICT create indoor navigation for the blind using ultrawideband, Android phones, kind hearts

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
July 3, 2012
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There's no shortage of navigation outdoors, and even a little bit of help indoors, but there's been precious little aid for the blind indoors -- leaving them little choice but to move cautiously or get outside help. Fujitsu and Japan's NICT have crafted a system that gives the sightless a greater level of autonomy inside through ultrawideband-based impulse radio. A grid of UWB radios positioned around a room gauge the distances between each other and transmit the data to a PC, which then talks to the traveler's Android phone. The device then gives spoken directions based on a 12-o'clock system and far subtler distances than GPS can manage: the positioning is accurate to within a foot. While the indoors navigation is only just getting a demo this week, it's already being refined to detect objects in the room as well as to help even the fully sighted. If Fujitsu and NICT have their way, buildings ranging from hospitals to malls will have their own turn-by-turn navigation. For some, the freedom of movement could be a life-changer.

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