screenshot of a young man using the Seeing AI app for indoor navigation.

Seeing AI: Indoor Navigation

Introducing accessible indoor navigation using AI.

Mainstream navigation apps are used by people all over the world on a daily basis. Want to go somewhere? Plug the address or business name into Google Maps or Apple Maps and off you go with turn-by-turn directions! Travelers with low vision or blindness often use third party apps, such as BlindSquare, to access live turn-by-turn directions. But what about indoor navigation?

First generation accessible indoor navigation

GPS systems for outdoor navigation are typically based off of roads and Global Positioning Satellite System (GPS), a digital cellular network and the internet. The Global Positioning Satellite System is a network of 24 satellites circling the earth which is used to follow the person’s live location. Indoor navigation tools face unique challenges compared to outdoor navigation tools.

The first generation of indoor navigation began with bar codes and beacons. Physical bar codes or beacons were placed in strategic places and the information was relayed to the person walking past. With beacons, an O&M or knowledgable person carefully selected where the beacons would be placed and created the text that is shared. The content for each beacon is written and housed on an online application. The individual beacon calls up the corresponding text and relays it to the person who hears the information through an app on his/her smart phone. Beacons were initially installed and field tested in public places such as museums and airports.

Beacon Resources

AI indoor navigation

Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to evolve and is now being used to gather data and place virtual ‘beacons’ along routes. Like all new technology, using AI for indoor navigation is a work in progress.

Seeing AI is a Microsoft application developed for iOS. Seeing AI uses the device camera to identify people and objects, written text, pictures, money, UPC codes, and more. Recently, Seeing AI is using artificial intelligence to map indoor locations and to create indoor routes with virtual beacons.

Seeing AI App: Indoor Navigation video

Seeing AI app: Creating a Route video

Note: This is early technology and Microsoft is interested in your feedback to improve the indoor navigation feature.


Seeing AI has many useful features for users with low vision or blindness. Here are a few Paths to Technology posts on See AI:

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Writing and editing with an iPad and braille display: Intro part 1

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