Science Scope

Lost indoors - new technology should help people navigate indoor spaces

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No more getting lost at the museum, thanks to some new iPhone technology.

Your smart phone's GPS can get you to the mall, but once you're inside, well, you're on your own. One wrong turn in the cereal section could be catastrophic! But the directionally challenged among us can rejoice, now there's an indoor tracking device to help you navigate the mall, museum, or school you might find yourself lost it.

The system was developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation. It keeps track of the person using the device by measuring how fast, and in what direction they're walking.

Of course, the navigator has to know space you're lost it for it to help you. The idea is that eventually, your smart phone will download 3-D building plans from the Internet for all the places you go. Coupled with the sensor keeping track of where you are, your phone can show you, in real time, how to navigate.

The team will be demonstrating their indoor navigator at a trade show called Sensor+Test that starts later this month.

Of course, this isn't the first thing designed to help us work our way through indoor spaces. Some museums have apps that track you through their halls using WiFi, providing more information about different exhibits. Other apps use an inaudible, high-frequency noise that tells the phone where it is, or uses LEDs that only the smart-phone can see. This app is one of the first, however, to use the person's actual motion to figure out where they are and where they're going.

Obviously tracking people indoors can be useful beyond those of us who can't find out way out of our own bedrooms. The elderly could use it to find their way around, as could those who are seeing impaired. Eventually, there will be no excuse for getting lost in the mall.

Via: Eurekalert

Image: Fraunhofer IPA

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Rose Eveleth

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Rose Eveleth is a freelance writer, producer and designer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, OnEarth, Discover, New York Times, Story Collider and Radiolab. She holds degrees from the University of California, San Diego and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure