Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

On Tech & Vision With Dr. Cal Roberts

Sep 8, 2021

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

This episode’s big idea is navigation and how to implement a navigation solution that enables people with vision impairment to broadly travel cities — how and when they want to, independently. Dr. Roberts talks with Javier Pita, the creator of such a technology called NaviLens, which marries location finding with information.  Dr. Roberts also talks with representatives of New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority — one of the biggest transportation hubs in the world. They discuss the importance of accessible public transportation for people who are visually impaired and how NaviLens technology can help make independent navigation a reality. 


The Big Takeaways:

  • NaviLens system uses improved QR technology with a new type of code made up of four colors that enables it to store more information than a black and white QR code. 
  • Using a smartphone, the NaviLens app scans the area. Once it picks up the unique NaviLens  code, the app provides the embedded information audibly to the user along with their distance/directionality from the code. 
  • As long as the code appears anywhere in the field of view of the smartphone camera, the code is detected and information is delivered. 
  • NaviLens is more accurate than GPS technology because it takes into account smaller distances that are crucial to navigation for people who are visually impaired. NaviLens codes can be read up to 12 times farther away than QR or bar codes as well as at 160-degree angle.
  • Future advances to the NaviLens technology include a 360-degree technology that will register and retain the user’s location so the system can still tell where they are, and guide them to the destination even if they lose contact with the code. In addition, the NaviLens GO app uses advanced technology to help users navigate indoor spaces such as stores and to locate items in the store.  
  • This technology is elegant, inexpensive, flexible, easy to use, and fits seamlessly into a user’s life. While already part of public transportation in Barcelona, cities like New York City are testing it and hope to make this technology a more integral part of their public transportation system.



“Public transportation is the answer to so much inequity across all urban areas, and nonurban areas. If we can work to make the system as safe as possible for any range of abilities, that would be an enormous win, and huge piece making public transit truly public transit.” – Mira Philipson, Systemwide Accessibility Analyst, Metropolitan Transportation Authority New York City Transit

“I could walk down the hallway and it’s telling me when I’ve arrived at this department and the door is right in front of me — it really gives me that autonomy that I really crave.” - Ed Plumacher, Adaptive Technology Specialist, Lighthouse Guild

“We began in public transportation because for us and the users on our team, it is super important to make public transportation more accessible.” - Javier Pita, Founder and CEO NaviLens

“Accessibility needs to be built into products, websites, software, whatever it is, from the ground up, because it will just lead to a better product overall.”  Gian Carlo Pedulla, Supervisor, NYC Department of Education and Member, Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility, Metropolitan Transportation Authority New York City Transit


Contact Us:

Contact us at with your innovative new technology ideas for people with vision loss.


Pertinent Links:

Lighthouse Guild


NaviLens GO


Guest Bios:

Javier Pita Lozano, Founder and CEO, NaviLens

  • Javier is the CEO of NaviLens, a solution whose objective is to increase autonomy, social inclusion and quality of life of the visually impaired. Any place can adopt the NaviLens technology in an easy way to improve the space's accessibility through the use of a new patented cutting-edge technology artificial markers called ddTags. Entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in launching disruptive technologic companies. Javier and his team are working hard to make this world more accessible for the visually impaired people. 

Mira Philipson, Analyst, Systemwide Accessibility, Office ofthe President, Metropolitan Transportation Authority New York City Transit

Gian Carlo Pedulla, Supervisor, NYC Department of Education and Member, Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility, Metropolitan Transportation Authority New York City Transit

  • Gian Carlo Pedulla was born and raised in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Legally blind due to Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, he has persevered to overcome his blindness as well as all related obstacles to meet both personal and professional goals. Raised in an Italian American home, he learned the importance of a good meal, being fastidious, having a strong work ethic, and to be as independent as possible despite his blindness. After 15 years of teaching, Mr. Pedulla is now an administrator for Educational Vision Services within the New York City Department of Education. Besides his passion for Mathematics, Physics, and being a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Mr. Pedulla enjoys music and has been successful as a professional Disk Jockey performing at numerous private and corporate functions throughout the tri-state area over the last 25 years. Mr. Pedulla has been able to adapt and integrate himself to the different school environments and to utilize his strong interpersonal skills to interact with a variety of individuals and personalities, disabled and non-disabled alike. Assistive Technology has been an integral part of his ability to access an array of materials and complete a variety of assignments to achieve goals, both in academia and the workplace.

Edward Plumacher, Adaptive Technology Specialist, Lighthouse Guild Adaptive Technology Specialist for Lighthouse Guild since 2016

  • Founder of a tech company that created products and services for domestic and international professional sports leagues and their television broadcast rights holders, providing advanced optical imaging systems for quantifying and measuring live action recreated in real-time 3-D computer generated video replays. Also produced scoring and measurement systems for teams, coaches, managers and league governing bodies. His world changed when he lost his vision — including his career — though it still involved technology. Purchased first iPhone after first orientation and mobility training. Self-taught how to use voiceover over a weekend, and went from having difficulty trying to email on his computer with a magnifying glass and mouse to texting for the first time, easily accessing email calendars, and the internet. Was very active with the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) and became President of the Long Island chapter.  Began making presentations on smartphones and smart tablets for FFB just after he lost his sight. Created audio tutorials, ran workshops and networking groups on adaptive technology. Puts together curriculums on teaching people with vision loss about using technology. Worked with New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) to develop a curriculum for providing services on iOS devices and became one of the first people in NY State authorized to conduct iPhone and iPad training. Experienced in podcasting and media, facilitates a peer-to-peer support group at NY Public Library’s Andrew Heiskell Library, and is also very active in sports such as running, skiing, beat baseball, tandem cycling and outrigger canoeing. 


Host Bio:

Dr. Calvin W. Roberts

Calvin W. Roberts, MD, is President and Chief Executive Officer of Lighthouse Guild, the leading organization dedicated to providing exceptional services that inspire people who are visually impaired to attain their goals. Dr. Roberts has a unique blend of academic, clinical, business, and hands-on product development experience. Dr. Roberts is a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College. He was formerly Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Eye Care, at Bausch Health Companies where he coordinated global development and research efforts across their vision care, pharmaceutical, and surgical business units. As a practicing ophthalmologist from 1982 to 2008, he performed more than 10,000 cataract surgeries as well as 5,000 refractive and other corneal surgeries. He is credited with developing surgical therapies, over-the-counter products for vision care, prescription ocular therapeutics, and innovative treatment regimens. He also holds patents on the wide-field specular microscope and has done extensive research on ophthalmic non-steroidals and postoperative cystoid macular edema. Dr. Roberts has co-founded a specialty pharmaceutical company and is a frequent industry lecturer and author. He currently serves as an Independent Director on multiple corporate boards and has served as a consultant to Allergan, Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis. A graduate of Princeton University and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, Dr. Roberts completed his internship and ophthalmology residency at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York. He also completed cornea fellowships at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston.