New journey app to help visually impaired

28th November 2019 Christopher Carey

Visually impaired passengers can now navigate public transport faster and more conveniently following the launch of a new service by Israeli start-up Moovit, in collaboration with Microsoft and Aira.

Users can call remote agents through the Aira app, who are then able to view a live stream via the passenger’s smartphone and direct them using Moovit’s route mapping services, which are integrated into the platform.

Prior to this, agents needed to launch a separate browser to check for transit options, slowing the process for customers.

The service is now active in cities across the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

While free for the first five minutes of the call, users can subscribe to a premium subscription that provides more personalised options.

Yovav Meydad, Chief Marketing Officer, Moovit told Cities Today: “Integrating everything into one interface means that users will be able to get better service.

“Up until this point, many people would have to rely on family members or regular taxi drivers that they trust to get around day to day.”

Acting as the user’s eyes, agents describe objects, read signage, take and label photos and help navigate public transit with real-time data.

Moovit, originally known as Tranzmate, was founded in 2012 and consists of two core elements; a consumer-facing app that helps travellers find the best way to get around a city using multiple modes of transport, and a back-end mobility-as-a-service platform that can feed into third-party applications via an API.

In October, the company launched a pilot programme that integrates the Waze carpool service within its own mobile app in the US, Brazil, Mexico and Israel.

Stacy Cervenka, Director of Public Policy, American Foundation for the Blind said the new service will increase the comfort of blind and low vision people to navigate unfamiliar areas.

“You essentially have access to a pair of eyes that not only reads information to you but also looks at maps in real-time to direct you to where you’re going,” she said.

Founded out of San Diego in 2015, Aira provides a range of services and tools to help those with visual impairments gain greater independence when they leave their home.

The company also offers dedicated smart glasses with a 120-degree field of vision, which makes it easier for the remote agents to see what the user is seeing in real time.

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