A new app on the market may just be the thing to help blind New Yorkers navigate the city’s sprawling subway system safely. Lantern, designed by New York-based copywriter Eugene Gao, is a beacon-based navigation system that is designed to send audible information to users’ smart phones.

Eugene Gao Lantern App
In an interview with PSFK, Gao reveals that the idea of a beacon-powered app occurred to him after he read about the San Francisco International Airport testing a beacon navigation system and watching a blind passenger on the F train. “I was waiting for a downtown F train when I noticed a blind passenger finding his way around the platform and I thought to myself, ‘It must be so hard to take the subway if you’re blind, it’s confusing for the able-sighted as is’ I closed my eyes, taking in the sounds, smells, and I tried to imagine what it’d be like to ride the subway blind. The thought scared me.”

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The Lantern app harnesses the power of bottlecap-sized, bluetooth beacons, which would be scattered around subway stations, to send off real-time information to passengers’ smartphones. After setting their location, Lantern would provide step-by-step audio directions to safely guide users to their destination. Additionally, the app comes with a high-pitched alarm that sounds if vision-impaired passengers venture too close to stairs, walls or the edge of the subway platform.

+ Eugene Gao