Ping! – User-Activated Audio Beacons

Touch Graphics, Inc. has developed a new approach to improve accessibility to public exhibit spaces such as science and technology museums. This concept calls for creating a network of wireless audio beacons at key destinations in the exhibit space that make it possible for blind and visually impaired people to independently navigate and to learn about exhibit content.

  • Using their own familiar cell phones, users call a toll-free phone number, and interact with a human-voice computer attendant, as they select a personal “ping” sound from a catalog of available chirps, whistles and chimes.
  • Then, they choose a destination from among those offered at the site, and use their phone as a “;remote control”, pressing a designated key to trigger their personal sound to be played from the place to which they wish to travel.
  • Blind travelers typically can localize environmental sounds, judging distance and bearing, so they can walk to a destination with the aid of a guide dog or a long cane. When they reach their destination, the phone becomes an interactive audio guide, providing explanations and opportunities for requesting additional information or triggering computer displays or other local events.

As part of a research grant administered by the National Science Foundation, the Company installed a network of user-activated audio beacons at New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York, as a way of demonstrating the effectiveness of the Ping ! concept.

The results of the first phase of research on Ping! is discussed in an article in the Fall 2005 issue of Assistive Technology, the Journal of the Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America (text version.)


Our research results are based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program under Grant No. DMI-0421973. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

NY Hall of Science

Ping! Beacon System showing a speaker, ping unit and a cell phone.
Ping! Beacon System
A Ping! Participant in the exhibit gallery listening to a Ping! with her phone.
A Ping! Participant
A Ping! Participant walking with his guide dog down a hallway.
A Ping! Participant
Ping Exhibit space schematic diagram
Ping Exhibit space schematic diagram
touchPing! – User-Activated Audio Beacons