Waymap’s app helps visually impaired people access public transport – Meczyki.Net

based in london waymap seeks to help people with visual impairments navigate their surroundings, starting with public transportation. According to Waymap, the company has finished a two-week closed trial of its navigation app at three stops on the subway in Washington, D.C., and expects to begin public testing at 25 subway stations and 1,000 bus stops by September.

Tom Pay, CEO and founder of Waymap, who founded the company after losing his vision at the age of 39, says, “What we learned from our testing is that it’s so important for blind people because when you lose your vision If you lose, you lose the freedom to explore.” Old, told Meczyki.Net.

“The regular visually impaired person uses about 2.5 routes on a regular basis. And that means they have to go to the grocery store and pharmacy. And that’s because there’s so much information you have to remember when you lose your sight, and it’s hard enough to pack all that in your head while simultaneously trying to protect yourself using your primary mobility. It is also very difficult. So what we do is we replace human memory and give the person access to infinite memory in terms of routing, and then allowing them to go wherever they want with their mobility skills.

Going anywhere is, of course, a long-term goal for the company to grow, but for the short-term, Waymap is starting with public transportation before branching out to places like museums, hotels, hospitals, or other public buildings. The company has tested its technology around the world, but Washington, D.C. will be the first full city where the app is deployed.

The Waymap app provides users with free audio step-by-step instructions, directing users to within 3 feet of accuracy. And Waymap is exactly what it means when it says “step-by-step” because the startup doesn’t use GPS to track users; It taps into the smartphone’s Inertial Measurement Unit sensors – magnetometer, accelerometer and barometer – to get data on how fast someone walks, their gait, if they’re going up or down stairs. This data is then fed into Waymap’s own algorithm, which relies on Bayesian statistics to spray out 5,000 potential positions where users can base their next move and work where the probability is. That algorithm is run in conjunction with Waymap’s “map matching” algorithm to provide precise instructions to users.

Someone using the app can hear something like this at each stage of the journey:

“Turn at 10 o’clock, then take four steps forward. Turn at 2 a.m. for the pedestrian crossing. Continue straight after the pedestrian crossing. Turn at 1 a.m. for route 10 steps. Nine steps turn at 1 o’clock. Follow the path…”

Aimed at the most recent test in DC, 15 visually impaired users of Waymap, seven visually impaired users and three orientation and mobility instructors affixed their phones to holsters on their belts.

Waymap’s app shows basic commands for visually impaired users to navigate their surroundings. image credit: waymap

“Our algorithm is recording the kinetic energy that you are using to walk, and this allows us to understand your estimated walking speed and possible step length,” Pei said. Even a “non-location” one, like the user’s front door, has previously only relied on sensors to determine where the user is in relation to their environment.

“Once we know the speed or step length, and we know where you are, the algorithm works out with 99.999% certainty where your next move is going to be,” Pei continued. “If you change speed, we detect it because that energy goes through your hip. So, we’re 99.999% sure where you are.”

Getting an accurate location also depends on mapping the environment. As Waymap grows larger, it will take maps from local transit authorities or open road maps when mapping out transit stops and stations. However, for its DC test, Waymap used 360-degree video along with lidar scans to map the stations. The scans provided the basic layout of the stations, and the video helped identify obstacles or points of interest for people with disabilities – such as pillars, trash cans or seating areas.

In the future, when Waymap use becomes important, Pay wants to enlist visually impaired people to use the app while traveling so that they can effectively donate data to startups about their steps and the way they travel. They maneuver around the posts. This will help learn Waymap’s algorithms through continuously updated maps and routing information.

Waymap recently closed a $4.9 million (£4 million) pre-Series A, and plans to increase its Series A next year. According to Pay, the funds will be used to build the startup’s business development team in the US, while continuing to develop the technology in all areas of localization and mapping.

Pay expects Waymap, which is already profiting from transit authorities and cities, to be profitable soon after its next increment.