The University of Birmingham undertook a research project, working with technology provider, BriteYellow, aiming to address the task of passenger wayfinding around railway stations.
For blind and visually impaired passengers, navigating through a transport hub may feel daunting. Tasks such as reading directional signs or identifying platform changes can be challenging.
Funded by broadband provider WM5G, the project leveraged advancing technology to develop a detailed system that works in three distinct stages: data preparation, routing engine bootstrap, and intrastation routing.
Data preparation centres around transforming existing 2D floor plans into usable data for the algorithm.
The process annotates these plans to indicate crucial elements, such as stairs, lifts, navigable passageways and potential obstacles. This stage establishes a precise and comprehensive visual representation of the station’s layout.
Once the data is adequately prepared, the focus shifts to the bootstrap engine.
In this stage, the annotated floor plans are imported and translated into navigable meshes and graph-based data structures. This conversion is essential in enabling the routing process, which effectively turns the physical station into a digitally navigable environment.
The final stage, intrastation routing, commences once the data has been mapped out and processed.
This stage employs Dijkstra’s algorithm; given a start and end point, the algorithm determines the most efficient route and generates a coordinate path in return. This path formation can then be used for augmented reality purposes, such as guiding a passenger through the station to their platform.
Since the application only requires 2D floorplans, incorporating new stations into the software is a straightforward process. Existing floorplans can be easily adapted and annotated, creating data sets for any station with minimal effort and resource use, according to the University of Birmingham.
More than just presenting visual data, the application could be used to integrate auditory aids such as verbal directions, hazard warnings and tool-based instructions, researchers added.