The MTA and the Transit Innovation Partnership have launched a pilot program to test the NaviLens app, which lets blind and low-vision bus riders use their smartphones to find bus stops and learn of arrival times. But NaviLens isn’t only for the blind and low vision! If you are sighted, check out the NaviLensGO app, which provides real-time arrival and service information immediately when you scan the code.
With help from the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), signs along the M23 SBS bus route display decals for the NaviLens and NaviLensGO apps.
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The NaviLens app, which is available for Android or iOS devices, uses a cutting-edge algorithm to translate visual signage into audio. It helps customers determine the accurate location and distance to the nearest bus stop, find out when the next bus will arrive. It can tell riders how crowded a bus is (if the necessary sensor technology is onboard), and help riders onto the bus when it pulls up to the stop.
Colorful, seven-inch-tall QR-style codes are installed on bus stop poles. The app can detect these from up to 40 feet away and at an angle of up to 160 degrees. The code does not have to be in focus for app detection and will direct the user by providing audio directional cues, including distance and angle from code such as “25 feet away, straight,” “right,” and so on. This helps solve the “last-few-yards wayfinding problem” for the blind, in which GPS technology does not guide to a destination’s exact location.
The M23 SBS bus route carries almost 14,500 weekday riders pre-pandemic. It is the eighth busiest bus route in Manhattan with stops near the Selis Manor Residence for the Blind, VISIONS Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library.