So what can’t smartphones do these days? Besides all the fun and informative apps they already offer, researchers are now working to put a suite of assistive technologies at the fingertips of visually impaired pedestrians via smartphones.

The prototype Mobile Accessible Pedestrian Signals (MAPS) system uses technologies built into the latest smartphones—including Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, digital compasses, and wireless networking— to help people with limited or no eyesight cross intersections safely.

While standing at an intersection, the user can point a smartphone in the direction he or she wants to cross and call up information about the intersection and the signal phase by tapping the unit’s touchscreen once. A double tap sends a request for a crossing signal to the traffic signal controller. Feedback is then given to the user as to whether it is safe to cross.

Cool huh? And pretty amazing. Here’s the entire article from the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies.

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