2004-2005: With support from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, this entrepreneurial student team designed and developed a portable navigation device for visually impaired students to use on the Smith College Campus using GPS (Global Positioning System), GIS (Geographic Information System) and voice interface technologies. The principal function of the device, named Go!PAL (Path-finding Assistive Laptop), is to help direct a user from her current location to a desired destination through voice commands.
The team designed Go!PAL by upgrading a laptop with the necessary software and hardware components to meet product objectives, ensuring compatibility among all the different pieces and automating the path-finding process based upon voice interaction. These components include a WAAS-enabled (Wide Area Augmentation System) GPS receiver unit, the campus geodatabase, GIS software and voice interface software. The team successfully implemented a working prototype of Go!PAL that performs one path-finding loop. They provided recommendations for future development, including an error-checking function that generates directions when the user is off-path and expanding the device’s functionality beyond the boundaries of the Smith campus. The team won a entrepreneurial spirit award from the Grinspoon Foundation Entrepreneurship Initiative for their design.