RAMPE is an interactive auditory assistance and information system for blind people. It is designed to be used at stops on public transport systems (buses and tramways) or installed in an interchange hub. RAMPE makes use of a range of different technologies (PDA, WiFi) to provide pertinent voice information at the right time.
The starting point of the project was an analysis of the travel strategies used by visually impaired people and the diverse range of situations they are faced with when travelling; this was used to identify their needs and define usage scenarios to determine the specification for the application.
RAMPE consists of two main parts: equipment at stops (terminals) and a device carried by the user. This is equipped with a PDA incorporating an intelligent application that uses voice synthesis and communicates wirelessly with the terminals over a WiFi connection.
The application on the PDA adjusts automatically to the type of passenger information system (PIS) available at stops and reacts to real-time information. The system is capable of managing complex situations such as sites with multiple stops or multiple lines, the effects of proximity on stops that are side-by-side or face-to-face, and simultaneous use or bus arrivals. The terminal emits an auditory signal to help blind or visually impaired people to get their bearings without inconveniencing local residents.
Bus stops are located in noisy environments where people and vehicles intermingle, i.e. a high-risk situation for a blind or visually impaired person and one that requires constant vigilance. In order to avoid long, sequential, passive dissemination of data, the interface was designed with an emphasis on reducing the time and number of manipulations required to provide fast, direct access to relevant information. Particular attention was paid to managing real-time priorities during voice navigation. The interface incorporates appropriate management of clicks and terminal behaviour in order to take into account or limit the effects of use related to urban contingencies (abandoning the interaction during use because of meeting someone, for example, or a sequence of multiple clicks close together in a stressful situation).
Identifying the presence and location of a stop (bus or tram), finding out which lines it serves and their itineraries and timetables, reading a poster about a route that is being temporarily diverted and identifying the number of the bus arriving at a distance are all examples of tasks that sighted users can accomplish in just a few seconds, often without thinking about it. Blind or visually impaired people can find themselves feeling unsure or unable to access some or all of this information, particularly when they are in an unfamiliar location or when they are alone. Where possible, other people will help by trying to respond to specific requests as best they can, but they cannot anticipate someone's intentions or provide exhaustive information.
The aim of the RAMPE project is to develop and trial an interactive auditory assistance and information system for blind and visually impaired people to increase their independence and ability to travel on public transport. The system is designed to be used at stops on public transport systems (buses and tramways) or installed in an interchange hub.
The project is supported by the Terrestrial Transport Department at the Ministry for Infrastructure as part of the PREDICT programme and by the working group on mobility and accessibility services for people with reduced mobility. It began in January 2004.
The project is managed by the ESIEE and brings together three complementary partners:
- the LEI (Laboratoire d'Ergonomie Informatique at the University of Paris V), which carried out the needs analysis and contributed to the specifications, primarily in terms of the interface,
- the ESIEE (École supérieure d'Ingénieurs Electronique et Électrotechnique), which contributed to the technical specifications and information system and developed the PDA application,
- LUMIPLAN, a company that has been working with transport authorities for over 30 years, which developed the application on the terminals to work with the PIS and which will be in charge of installing it at stops in the final phase of the project.
The first phase of the project is complete. This involved the development and technical and functional validation of the prototypes both for the device carried by the user and the equipment at stops. RAMPE makes use of a range of different technologies to provide pertinent voice information at the right time. The decision to use technologies already in widespread use such as PDAs and WiFi will facilitate system deployment and interactions with other services.
Prospects: The second phase will focus on on-site trials at bus stops in interchange hubs with local authorities. Normative aspects will be examined. The aim is to end phase 2 with concrete operational systems that can be implemented by local authorities.