New indoor navigation app has potential

Greater Manchester Sight Loss Council (SLC) members put a new indoor navigation app through its paces last week to assess whether it makes things easier for blind and partially sighted people.

American company Goodmaps, which created Explore, developed the free GoodMaps Explore app for iOS and Android to make indoor navigation more accessible.

The developers say the app locates where you are in a room within two inches to one metre of accuracy using GoodMaps Studio mapping data.

Five members of Greater Manchester SLC went to Manchester Airport Railway Station to put the app to the test. This station is one of only a handful of locations currently mapped for use with the app in the UK.

SLC members were joined by Thomas Pocklington Trust’s (TPT) Education Technology Co-ordinator, Peter Hayton; and Kelly Barton, SLC Northwest Engagement Manager.

Blind and partially sighted staff and SLC volunteers navigated the station using the app between different platforms. They also used the app to find customer services and locate the toilets.

So, was it a success? Feedback was mixed.

Lora Fachie, Sight Loss Council volunteer, said:

“The app has definitely got a lot of potential.  It takes a little bit of getting used to but, with more practice, it will give us more freedom.

“I think apps like this have great potential for the future. It’s interesting to see where this could go.”

Abu-bakr Ishtiaq, Sight Loss Council volunteer, said:

“At first it was difficult to hold my phone in the right position. But, once the camera captured what it needed, the app worked really well. It felt really good to be able to walk around the train station on my own.

“Usually I would need assistance, but this app enabled me to do some of the routes on my own.”

Peter Hayton, Education Technology Coordinator at TPT, said:

“Testing the Goodmaps Explore app at Manchester Airport Railway Station with volunteers proved to be invaluable – both for improving our understanding of the product and identifying where it could be most useful.

“We independently navigated several routes around the station and collected user feedback. Despite not being 100 per cent perfect yet, this testing allowed us to be optimistic about the future of this technology.

“Everyone is keen to follow up when there are new indoor navigation mapping developments.”

Greater Manchester SLC will continue working with Goodmaps as further improvements are made to the app. Volunteers also plan to return to the train station later this year to see what developments have been made.

Below is a video review by Sight Loss Council member Steve about the navigation app.

Below is a video review by Sight Loss Council member Lora about the navigation app.

Publication date: 11 July 2022

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