Barcelona’s Transit System Unveils Colorful Stickers That Help The Blind Around
By Mikelle Leow, 07 Jun 2019
Image via NaviLens
A plethora of neon stickers have popped up across Barcelona’s public transport system, adorning its comprehensive network of buses, trains and more. These aren’t artworks, but barcodes that aim to help visually-impaired commuters navigate the city.
The pixelated five-by-five tags—commissioned by Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) to Spanish startup NaviLens and the Mobile Vision Research Lab at the University of Alicante—contain information on wayfinding and ticketing, to name a few.
Decked near exits, elevators, platforms, ticketing counters and more, the colorful prints can be scanned with smartphones to turn up public transport timetables, warn of obstacles, or describe physical surroundings.
Sembla un lector QR però és molt més potent. Permet a les persones invidents llegir els cartells gràcies a l'aplicació @navilens. No cal enfocar-lo i els telèfons intel·ligents el poden llegir en moviment pic.twitter.com/o5kb2EGy9h— Laura Arias (@lau_arias_) February 21, 2018
The messages will be read in the person’s native language, selected through an accompanying phone app. Barcelona welcomes nearly 10 million visitors each year, so this feature would also be useful for visually-impaired tourists.
Unlike regular QR codes, NaviLens’ unique stickers do not have to be focused on to be activated. Instead, the black cards can be detected from 39 feet away in one-thirtieth of a second.
The codes can also be read at up to a 160-degree angle even when a commuter is on the move. The NaviLens app can record over 200 barcodes in a single frame, so travelers will not miss out on crucial information.
Llum verda a la guia virtual per a un transport públic més accessible @navilens @neosistec @FVESP @ONCE_oficial. El desplegament del sistema a #metrobcn i #busbcn serà progressiu a partir de la tardor vinent. https://t.co/zO4tmFPVtC pic.twitter.com/LwH1CsfN3T— TMB (@TMB_Barcelona) August 10, 2018
Audio cues prepare visually-impaired citizens to point the tags at the phone’s field of vision, and shaking the wrist of their free hand signals to the app to read out details contained in the barcode.
Aside from offering insights for commuters, the tags can double as food labels and markers for personal documents.
Visually-impaired local Juan Nuñez reflects, via MIT Technology Review, that the system works “like magic,” and that there was previously no alternative to these clever decals besides memorizing routes and transport layouts.
Following a successful test, these brightly-hued stickers will make their way to all of the city’s 159 Metro stations and some 2,400 bus stops. There is also a plan to roll them out to other European cities.
[via MIT Technology Review, video via NaviLens, cover image via NaviLens]
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