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Hello Tidbits readers. A little background to start. My name is Roger Buchanan and I'm from Richmond, Texas. I have retinitis pigmentosa and can only see things like shadows, dark and light contrast and very few details. I can no longer read or recognize faces.
For full details on this service, please visit https://www.navilens.com/. By the way, everything with NaviLens is completely free of cost.
NaviLens is a navigation system made for smart phones so that visually impaired and blind people can navigate their surroundings independently. The app works by making use of colorful proprietary QR codes. There are I believe two apps that accomplish this. The first is called NaviLens. The second is called NaviLensGo. The first is used to locate things such as subway stations, bus stops, museums, etc. When one is in the vicinity of a desired destination simply start the app and point the phone's camera and NaviLens will read a QR code and identify the subway station or bus stop. NaviLens will give the user distance and directions in order to find the place. From what I understand once inside the subway station you can use NaviLensGo to navigate inside the subway station and receive information about trains, etc. I know these codes are placed in a couple of places in New York City and in Barcelona Spain, and I have not had the opportunity to experiment with them. However, based on my experience with the second feature of NaviLens I can only imagine how useful this first feature is in reality.
The feature I am more familiar with are the personal QR codes. By requesting these codes from NaviLens via email I received back a PDF file with these codes. I printed them out on an 8 x 11 label sheet. My wife then cut these QR codes apart as directed. I was then able to take one of the QR codes and simply program into the app what I wanted that QR code to identify. This could literally be anything that you would like to identify. Here is how I chose to use the QR codes.
I have been going to the same gym for over 15 years. I love to lift weights and use mainly the weight machines. Even with my limited vision I can usually do rather well finding those machines. However there were a few machines that were always problematic and I usually needed assistance finding them. I don't mind asking for help when I really need it but I always thought it would really be nice if I could do this on my own. I contacted the NaviLens team and my gym to get permission to put these QR codes on the machines and both graciously allowed me to do so. From that point on I could identify and locate every machine that I wanted to use on my own with no assistance. All I had to do was walk down the aisle where the machine was and eventually the app would kick in and say something like "lat pulldown 6 feet to the right". This was wonderful and I now have a level of independence that I have not had in years.
I have used these successfully for eight months but there was still a slight problem. When I am navigating around the weight machines I have a starting anchor point against the wall next to the restrooms. Once I am there I know my exact location and can use the QR codes to find the machines and complete my exercise program. Sometimes my problem was finding the starting anchor point. Using my white cane most of the time I did pretty well but occasionally I would get disoriented and someone would have to point me in the right direction or take me to that point. Again, not a big deal but it sure would've been nice to be able to do this on my own as well.
Then last week I got an email from NaviLens describing a new feature they had added to the app. It is called Personal Indoor Route. Once again all I had to do was request via email a QR code in order to start using this feature. This time it was one QR code. I printed it out and followed the simple directions. As a trial I wanted to go from our indoor garage area to the water closet of our master bathroom. Without going into too much detail I simply scanned the QR code, began recording the route, navigated the route, and then when I reached my destination I pressed "End Record". I then made my way back to the door of the garage to try to navigate using the route I had created. The app recognized the route and gave me instructions such as "Right 3 O'clock", "Straight Ahead", etc.
It allowed me to navigate to my destinations flawlessly. I even went back to the beginning and tried it with my eyes closed with the exact same result. I was astounded! We have lived in this house for 20 years and there is one piece of furniture that I have run into twice and broken my nose both times. This time I made my way without bumping into anything.
Next week my wife and I are going on a Cruise on the Caribbean and I cannot wait to try this out on board the ship. Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could find my way to the bar myself! Lol! Once we have returned I'm very excited to return to my gym and map out several different routes that will allow me to access everything in the facility on my own independently. Just as an aside, last year about April I had convinced myself that I was no longer going to be able to go to the gym. I was overwhelmed at the thought of navigating the space alone. A friend of mine urged me to give it another try and with the help of the QR codes I was able to settle back into my old routine. With every visit to the gym I wondered to myself "how long am I going to be able to continue to do this?" With NaviLens I now know that I am going to be able to continue going to the gym for as long as I would like to do so. I am so excited about this app and for me it is truly a life changing tool.
I apologize for the length of this but I hope that it gives you some information that you are looking for. Wishing you all the best!