Visually impaired people have difficulty in walking freely because of the obstacles or the stairways along their walking paths, which can lead to accidental falls. Many researchers have devoted to promoting safe walking for visually impaired people by using smartphones and computer vision. In this research we propose an alternative approach to achieve the same goal - we take advantage of the power of crowdsourcing with machine learning. Specifically, by using smartphones carried by a vast amount of visually normal people, we can collect the tri-axial accelerometer data along with the corresponding GPS coordinates in large geographic areas. Then, machine learning techniques are used to analyze the data, turning them into a special topographic map in which the regions of outdoor stairways are marked. With the map installed in the smartphones carried by the visually impaired people, the Android App we developed can monitor their current outdoor locations and then enable an acoustic alert whey they are getting close to the stairways.
International Conference on Smart Computing (SMARTCOMP 2014), pp.7-12