NaviLens - the navigation and labelling app empowering people with sight loss

NaviLens label on signage for the New York Metro.

NaviLens is a navigation and labelling app especially designed for blind and partially sighted users.

NaviLens tags are used across the world:

  • to help people with sight loss navigate and find their way around cities independently

  • by retailers and manufacturers who are incorporating NaviLens into their designs to help users quickly and easily access information

  • by anyone with a smartphone who can create their own unique audio tags

NaviLens tags can be read aloud simply by pointing your phone in the general direction of that tag. It’s free and easy to use. The app works on both the Android and Apple operating systems and is completely accessible.

Where can you find NaviLens tags?

Some companies are incorporating NaviLens tags into their packaging and onto their directional signage. A NaviLens tag can help customers to access product ingredients and cooking instructions, prices and special offers, and help users to navigate around a building or even identify a transport stop or timetable. For World Sight Day, RNIB partnered with Kellogg's to include accessible information on cereal boxes using NaviLens tags.

Across the world, NaviLens is being used to make cities smarter and more inclusive and to allow users to interact more easily with their environment, in places such as subway stations, bus stops and museums or public buildings.

The New York Metro has over 100 NaviLens tags in place to help customers with sight loss be more independent. Tags guide people through the subway system and provide real-time train arrival information in 24 languages. NaviLens tags can be read even if they are far away or high up, and with the app users don’t have to rely on GPS or having access to the internet to navigate the underground.

NaviLens is used widely across Spain, where the app was developed. On the underground and bus transport system of Barcelona, NaviLens tags are placed on the signage, bus stops and ticket machines. In Murcia NaviLens tags are inside and outside the busses and trams, and the Archeological Museum has used NaviLens tags to provide information on their exhibits and installations.

The app can detect your native language and read information to you in that language, so a Spanish sign would be translated and relayed instantly in English or any one of 24 languages.

In London, RNIB have incorporated NaviLens tags into their head office directional signage so staff and visitors with sight loss can independently find their way around. Soon, all RNIB staff ID badges will incorporate NaviLens tags so any visitor with the app can tell who is present and what their role is.

At home

You can create your own NaviLens tags to label food in the cupboard, put appointments onto a calendar, note the tracks on a CD or even record banking details so you can access them independently. NaviLens supply a selection of free tags for personal use at home.

How to use NaviLens at home

To use NaviLens at home you need a smartphone with the NaviLens app installed from your app store, and some of the free NaviLens tags.

1. Open the NaviLens app and tap the “Quick Start” button in the bottom right (rocket icon).

2. Tap “Request tags”.

3. You now get some information about NaviLens and a form to enter your name and email address to order your free tags.

4. Tap “I want to receive the tags”.

5. You will receive a welcome message saying that your tags will be emailed to you soon.

You will very quickly receive an email containing several PDF files with the tags that you will have to print out:

  • a PDF with one A4 size tag (full page)

  • a PDF with four tags of 75mm (four per page)

  • two PDFs with 16 tags of 35mm (16 per page)

  • a PDF with 64 tags of 18mm (64 per page)

  • a PDF with 35 tags of 35mm (35 only for special pre-cut adhesive Avery Dennison L7120 - 25 page)

Each tag is a square black background with brightly coloured squares of blue, purple and yellow, arranged in a varying grid pattern. You will need to print the PDF files, cut each tag out and stick it onto to the item you want to label. You can stick a tag on using an adhesive label, sticky tape or even laminate them to make them last longer.

Don’t worry about being able to see the code. When switched on, the NaviLens app is sensitive enough to locate a tag even if it is small or far away. You just hold up your phone and scan around the room and the app will pick up the presence of any tag visible in the area around you. The app will then use either tones or speech to help you navigate towards the tagged item, and read your audio aloud when you are ready.

How to create an audio message

1. Open the NaviLens app and point the camera at the tag you want to add an audio message on to.

2. The app will speak to tell you, “Blank tag. Use the personal note option to complete it.”

3. Tap the pencil icon in the top right of the app.

4. Tap the screen and type the message you want attached to the tag. When it is scanned the message will be read aloud by a synthesized voice. Your audio can be as short or as long as you want.

5. Tap the tick icon in the top right when you are happy with your message.

6. The information is uploaded to the app. Tap the cross icon in the bottom left to return to the app.

7. The NaviLens app will scan the environment, tell you the distance you are from your tag and read your message aloud to you.

8. Tags can be updated or completely changed by scanning them, tapping the message on the app screen and tapping the pencil icon to start again. 

Note: Your tag can only be read by your own app, so someone else using NaviLens will not be able to hear your audio label unless you give them permission. Permission can be granted by creating a NaviLens account.

How to use NaviLens

Once you have created a few NaviLens tags and applied them to your items, you simply open the app on your smartphone. Hold your phone up and point it in the general direction of the tagged item. Move it slowly around and when a tag is detected the app will tell you the distance the tag is away from you and will also tell you if it is to the right or left to help you navigate towards it. The app can detect an A4 size tag up to 12 meters away, smaller tags are also detectable even from across a room.

If you have several tags visible on the camera at once, when you move your phone and find a new tag that is more centred than the previous one, you will hear a clicking sound indicating that this new tag is the most centred.

Shake your phone to get the app to read the NaviLens tag.

Settings

You can personalise the NaviLens app by adjusting the type of feedback the app gives you. To adjust app feedback go to “Settings”, the first button on the bottom left (cog icon).

“Location mode” allows you to choose between tones, voice instructions and haptic vibrations to help you navigate towards a tagged item.

“Reading options” allows you to select when a message is read and to choose what additional information you want, like distance from an item.

“Energy mode” has options that will help your battery to last longer when using the app.

“Flash mode” allows you to choose when your phone camera flash will be used.

“Measuring system” lets you select metric or imperial. In the UK the app defaults to imperial measurements.

“Speech synthesis” lets you adjust the speed at which the app speaks. In this option you can also choose to use a different text to speech engine if you have an alternative installed on your phone.