Carnegie Mellon University researchers say a smart suitcase that warns blind users of impending collisions and a wayfinding smartphone app can help people with visual disabilities navigate airport terminals safely and independently.

The smart suitcase was developed under a partnership between Carnegie Mellon and Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) aimed at developing new systems and technologies for enhancing traveler experiences and airport operations.

The rolling suitcase sounds alarms when users are headed for a collision with a pedestrian, and the navigation app provides turn-by-turn audio instructions to users on how to reach a departure gate – or a restroom or a restaurant. The developers said both proved effective in a pair of user studies conducted at PIT.

“Part of our commitment to the public includes making sure our airport works for everyone, particularly as we modernize our facility for the future,” said Pittsburgh International Airport CEO Christina Cassotis. “We’re proud to partner with such great researchers through Carnegie Mellon University. Having that world-class ingenuity reflected at our airport is emblematic of Pittsburgh’s transformation.”

The NavCog app for iPhone is available for free from the App Store and can be used at PIT in the ticketing area of the landside terminal and in the concourses and center core of the airside terminal.