Autonomous mobility for blind and visually impaired people in the urban space through audio-tactile navigation (TERRAIN)

  • Project team:

    Weinberger, Nora (Project leader); Markus Winkelmann; N.N.

  • Funding:


  • Start date:


  • End date:


  • Project partners:

    iXpoint Informationssysteme GmbH (consortium head); KIT, Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics; KIT, Study Centre for the Visually Impaired; F. H. Papenmeier GmbH & Co. KG

  • Research group:

    Life, Innovation, Health, and Technology

Project description

Due to the partial or complete loss of vision, blind and visually impaired people have to meet two challenges: first, the free movement through space and transport (navigation), and second, the knowledge of the spatial issues and their walkable ways. Reasons for this are their problems with the perception of obstacles and landmarks that are crucial for creating mental maps and the determination of their own location. This can lead to a decreased range of motion and restricted mobility and finally result in social isolation. Three out of ten visually impaired never go outside without a (seeing) accompanying person, among the elderly the proportion is even higher: two out of three people no longer leave their home at all.

Against this background, the TERRAIN project wants to enable visually impaired people to access their individual social spaces in the neighborhood and allow for a "secured participation" in social life, i.e. an individual lifestyle and health-promoting mobility. Therefor so-called man-machine interfaces are developed which can be personally and individually adapted to the respective person. Apart from the adaptability to the current symptoms of health changes and the ease of use, it is important that these interfaces have no stigmatizing effect for those affected. By using acoustic and haptic signals, the system provides the user with an easier and more independent daily mobility and supports the autonomy of the person. The system is not so much intended to replace the white cane, but rather as an additional support for the user. Therefore, the most modern methods of image processing shall be used to display important information about their current environment to the users in real-time for a secure and independent movement in the city.

The main task of ITAS within the project consists in the development-related technology assessment of the entire process – with focus on the technical, legal, economic and particularly ethical and social aspects of the technologies used. Moreover, with the participation of citizens, not only the usage and action context of the technology is researched (e.g. the acceptance of camera usage in public places and other expectations on the TERRAIN system), but also the concerns are analyzed. ITAS also accompanies the user studies and evaluates recent findings together with an expert group that accompanies the whole process. So ITAS does not only act as an interface between man and machine, but also as an interface between affected persons, citizens, experts and the other partners of the project.

Website of project:

Press information of KIT:


Dipl.-Ing. Nora Weinberger
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: 0721 608-23972