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On Tech & Vision With Dr. Cal Roberts

Nov 11, 2022

This podcast is about big ideas on how technology is making life better for people with vision loss.

Artifacts from Blackbeard’s sunken pirate ship are on display in the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, North Carolina. But now they are also accessible to visitors who are blind, thanks to the efforts of Peter Crumley, who spearheads the Beaufort Blind Project. In this episode, we ask: How can new technology help make sites like these as accessible to people who are blind as they are to sighted people? We profile three companies applying new technologies paired with smartphone capabilities, to make strides in indoor navigation, orientation, and information transfer. Idan Meir is co-founder of RightHear, which uses Apple’s iBeacon technology to make visual signage dynamic and accessible via audio descriptions. We check in with Javier Pita, CEO of the NaviLens QR code technology which we profiled in our first season to see what they have been developing in the last two years. Rather than iBeacons or QR codes, GoodMaps uses LiDAR and geocoding to map the interior of a space. We speak with Mike May, Chief Evangelist. Thanks to Peter Crumley, the North Carolina Maritime Museum is fully outfitted with GoodMaps, and will soon have NaviLens as well. As the prices of these tools come down, the key will be getting them into all the buildings, organizations, and sites of information transfer that people who are blind need to access – which is all of them.


The Big Takeaways:

  • Beaufort Blind Project. Peter Crumley, a blind resident of Beaufort, North Carolina, has advocated having accessibility tools brought to various parts of his hometown. Along the way, he helped the North Carolina Maritime Museum outfit itself with GoodMaps technology for indoor navigation, and with NaviLens QR codes for information transfer. Thanks to these new technologies, the museum artifacts are now accessible to everyone.
  • RightHear. Idan Meir cofounded RightHear, which uses iBeacon technology paired with users’ smartphones to guide visitors who are blind through an indoor space. iBeacons send unique signatures via low Bluetooth signals to phones inside the radius. When these iBeacons are paired with areas of interest in a space (e.g. the front door, the counters, or the bathrooms) users can orient themselves within a space, and identify where they want to go and how they want to navigate to each location. RightHear translates the information embedded in each beacon into audio feedback for users. On the subject of feedback, Idan Meir is looking for beta testers to try out RightHear and provide him with constructive feedback.
  • NaviLens. We profiled NaviLens QR code technology in an episode from our first season. In this episode, we follow up with Javier Pita to see what has been in development in the last two years. Since we last spoke, NaviLens has launched NaviLens 360, which uses magnets to help guide users who are blind to the NaviLens codes, even if their camera is having trouble picking up the code, making the app even more user-friendly. In addition, NaviLens has launched a partnership with Kellogg’s in Europe and North America to test the effectiveness of the Navilens code on consumer product packaging.
  • GoodMaps. GoodMaps uses LiDAR technology to map a space. Lasers are sent out from the LiDAR sensor, and when they bounce back, they have captured distances from the point of origin. Institutions work with GoodMaps to pay for the mapping service, and then users can access the maps for free. The app uses audio to communicate navigational directions with users.
  • Technological advancement. Each of these tools relies on component technologies that have gotten less expensive in recent years (iBeacons, QR Codes, and LiDAR). They are also able to exist because their target markets carry smartphones in their pockets, enabling these potential users to access the tools quickly and easily, without much additional hassle or investment.
  • Distribution. In this episode, we profile three different approaches to broadening access to indoor navigation technology, including for orientation and information transfer, proving there are many ways to solve these problems. It is good that some of these tools can be paired, as has been done at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, and that users may be able to choose which tools work best for them. The key will be getting them into all the buildings, organizations, and sites of information transfer that people who are blind need to access – which is all of them.



  • “The advocacy is so important; when you’re actually interfacing with the app to make the app better and make it work in a way that a blind person really needs it to work.” – Peter Crumley, Beaufort Blind Project
  • “Well, it's gonna be built from blind perspective philosophy. So not only will it work for me — it will work for anyone, totally blind and fully sighted to give an interactive experience.” – Peter Crumley, Beaufort Blind Project
  • “Imagine, if this technology will be in all the products, we will solve the problem of accessible packaging for all users.” – Javier Pita, NaviLens
  • “The point is we have solved the last few yards of the wayfinding problem that is super important for a blind user. And this was born in New York City with the collaboration with the MTA and the department of transportation of New York City.” – Javier Pita, NaviLens
  • “That camera picks up the environment and it compares it with that point cloud and says, “I see based on this particular image … that you are near the Starbucks,” or “You're near Gate 27.” –Mike May, GoodMaps
  • “It was important and kind of obvious for us from the very early on, you know, that nothing about us without us. It was clear to us that we have to involve users in the process. –Idan Meir, RightHear


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