“Nice gesture, using beacon technology to help those in need; would love to see more in real life.” —juror Natalie Lam
“We haven’t yet seen a lot of smart uses of beacon technology beyond the obvious approach to products and places. This was a nice way to bring new life to that tech.” —juror Drew Ungvarsky
Overview: Navigating New York City’s subway system is a challenge—even more so if you’re blind. Lantern is a navigation system that harnesses the power of Bluetooth beacons scattered around subway stations to track the location of a user’s smartphone. Through screen-reading technology and voice commands, Lantern then transforms a smartphone into an audio guide that directs blind users
to their destination quickly and safely.
•Bluetooth beacons interact with the smartphone app to triangulate its location.
•Lantern transforms a smartphone into an audio guide for the blind.
•Eugene Gao, a copywriting student at Miami Ad School New York, developed the project while enrolled in a mobile advertising class.
Comments by Eugene Gao:
How did you come up with the idea for the project? “I was enrolled in a class exploring mobile advertising. My teacher’s enthusiasm and his love for tech-driven ideas were a big influence on me. He waxed lyrical about the potential of beacon technology, and that set me on the path to using beacons to help people in need.”
What was the purpose of the project? “Ultimately, the goal is to simplify the subway experience. I hope an idea like Lantern can encourage more blind New Yorkers to use the subway to get where they need to be and empower them to lead the active and fulfilling lives they deserve. It’s a win-win for everyone, really.”
Did you learn anything new during the process? “I had read an article, by research company PSFK, about how the San Francisco International Airport was testing an indoor navigation system using beacons and smartphones. I was intrigued by the idea and parked it in the back of my mind. Some time after, I was waiting for a downtown F train when I noticed a blind passenger finding his way around the platform. I thought to myself, ‘It must be hard to take the subway if you’re blind. It’s confusing enough for the sighted.’ That’s when the PSFK article made sense, and I realized that beacons could be an inexpensive and effective way to guide the blind around the subway network.”