Commute Booster: A Mobile Application for First/Last Mile and Middle Mile Navigation Support for People With Blindness and Low Vision

Junchi Feng, Mahya Beheshti, Mira Philipson, Yuvraj Ramsaywack, Maurizio Porfiri, John Ross Rizzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: People with blindness and low vision face substantial challenges when navigating both indoor and outdoor environments. While various solutions are available to facilitate travel to and from public transit hubs, there is a notable absence of solutions for navigating within transit hubs, often referred to as the 'middle mile'. Although research pilots have explored the middle mile journey, no solutions exist at scale, leaving a critical gap for commuters with disabilities. In this paper, we proposed a novel mobile application, Commute Booster, that offers full trip planning and real-time guidance inside the station. Methods and procedures: Our system consists of two key components: the general transit feed specification (GTFS) and optical character recognition (OCR). The GTFS dataset generates a comprehensive list of wayfinding signage within subway stations that users will encounter during their intended journey. The OCR functionality enables users to identify relevant navigation signs in their immediate surroundings. By seamlessly integrating these two components, Commute Booster provides real-time feedback to users regarding the presence or absence of relevant navigation signs within the field of view of their phone camera during their journey. Results: As part of our technical validation process, we conducted tests at three subway stations in New York City. The sign detection achieved an impressive overall accuracy rate of 0.97. Additionally, the system exhibited a maximum detection range of 11 meters and supported an oblique angle of approximately 110 degrees for field of view detection. Conclusion: The Commute Booster mobile application relies on computer vision technology and does not require additional sensors or infrastructure. It holds tremendous promise in assisting individuals with blindness and low vision during their daily commutes. Clinical and Translational Impact Statement: Commute Booster translates the combination of OCR and GTFS into an assistive tool, which holds great promise for assisting people with blindness and low vision in their daily commute.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-535
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine
StatePublished - 2023


  • General transit feed specification
  • indoor navigation
  • low-vision aid
  • mobile application
  • optical character recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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