Getting Around Indoors with the Clew for iOS

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

In this podcast, Thomas Domville gives us a demonstration of Clew for iOS. Clew is an AR indoor navigation app designed for visually impaired users to help them retrace their steps in unfamiliar environments.

‎Clew on the App Store:

Podcast File: 



#1 very nice app.

it is a great app.
I love it and your podcast Mr.Domville.

#2 Warm Wishes

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hey, thanks for the warm wishes and I am glad to hear that you liked the app itself!

#3 Like to use this app, but

Like to use this app, but unfortunately crashing when I press the record button. Will try uninstalling and re-downloading. Innovative idea.

#4 Recording the Route from A to B and back again

I agree with Thomas in that it would be great to be able to save a route.

However, I would like to record the route to get to a specific place and back again.

For example, I could get help in recording the route to the bathroom at work.

Currently with the app I can only get back from the bathroom on my own.

I would like to be able to find the bathroom again but this time on my own by using the app.

It's a great app so far but needs to record the routes there and back for full independence.

#5 A vision of the future...

Hi Thomas,

Thanks for a great podcast.
Honestly, listening to this App gave me chills of excitement. Not so much for what this App can do right now, though that is amazing, but as a vision of a fast approaching future. A future where routes can be saved, say from your Hotel Room to the Hotel Bar. Or a future where such Apps pair with camera enabled Glasses. Now that's a pretty exciting future, don't you recon..?


#6 Great potential and already see a use case that I will apply

How many times have those of us who are blind been led some place like a restroom and then had the problem of getting back? You either take your chances or prevail upon whoever got you there to wait on you and bring you back. This app seems to have the solution even without further enhancement for that situation. I look forward to seeing what this becomes when it grows up. Thanks for the demo. I'll be downloading.

#7 Feedback on podcdast and using app

Thanks for a very clear and interesting podcast.

I agree with you that it would be nice if the app could save previously recorded paths.

Also, as simple as the app seems to be from your podcast, it really would be nice if it came with some kind of documentation and/or hints how to use it to get the best results.

I'm wondering if this app only works in relatively confined locations such as when traveling along hallways and through doorways. I tried this in our house which has one of those modern "open" designs with not many walls defining spaces. I walked into the large central area and navigated around chairs, sofas, and countertops to get to another location on the other side of the room. The app gave remarkly poor feedback in terms of retracing my steps back.

for example, feedback from the app like "turn left 26 feet". What is that supposed to mean? Angular directions aren't generally given in feet. I was also told to go ahead 13 feet with a wall in front of me. I know that you were unsure if this app would work outside, but I would have thought that it could be used in a large indoor space.

so I'm wondering what other experiences people have had with different spaces.

I don't know what the developer's eventual plans are, but hopefully they will continue to work on this app and maybe even eventually be plugged into the AppleVis community to get real feedback from real users. I haven't seen any comments in any of the Clew threads from the developer. Let's hope they don't disappear.


#8 ...

"for example, feedback from the app like "turn left 26 feet". What is that supposed to mean? Angular directions aren't generally given in feet."

i think you are too obsessed with the descriptive directions. forget about the "get direction" button, it is there just in case and not how this app is supposed to work. at any rates, turn left 26 feet means turn left and walk for 26 feet, but like i said, it's more trouble than its worth. rely on the sound and haptic feedback instead.

the presences of sound and haptic feedback indicates you are in the right direction, think it as an intermediate bridge or keep-going signal when you train your pet. to understand this, create a very simple route. start recording, walk straight for some distance, make a shart left and walk for a distance, stop recording and don't move. now tap navigate. if you have not deviated from the above instruction, you'll hear "turn around", and when you do, you'll receive sound and haptic feedback. now walk straight and at some point you'll be told to turn right, turn right and you'll receive haptic feedback. but let's do some experiment here: turn a bit more to the right and you should lose the haptic feedback; turn a bit more left and you get the feedback again and that means you are in the right direction again. follow the feedback and any voice instruction to go back the the origin point. now you understand how the app works, you can experiment with more complex routes.

large indoor place is fine, as long as the camera can see things. is the light on?

#9 Re: La Bohem

(Great opera by the way!)

Well I must admit that the first time I tried the app I didn't realize that the lights were out, so I wouldn't knock the app for that. But several repetitions during the day with lots of light didn't work too well either.

Anyway, I appreciate your details instructions and feedback. I'll give this another shot tomorrow paying attention to some of your pointers and let you know how it works. Such instructions really should be provided with the app.

BTW, speaking of instructions, if the app provides feedback just by hitting "Navigate", why is there a "Get Directions" button and what is it supposed to do?



#10 ...

"BTW, speaking of instructions, if the app provides feedback just by hitting "Navigate", why is there a "Get Directions" button and what is it supposed to do?"

navigate is like turn-by-turn navigation, get direction is like route overview in your typical map apps. the difference is that get direction here only gives you first step to take, not the entire route. personally, i think it is redundant and creates more confusion. what does turn left mean for example? instinctively, i interpret it as turn left 90 degrees, and if i follow such instruction, i might knock over a flower pot immediately.

#11 Looks and Sounds Interesting

Thank you Thomas for yet another wonderful audio walkthrough. I listened to the YouTube video where the developers talked about the app. I think it has the potential to become very useful, and I'm going to download it and give it a spin. I must admit though, I really don't do that much independent travel either indoor or outdoor. But I think one place where this app could come in pretty useful is the head office for a nonprofit organization in which I've been involved for several years. Their current headquarters is very spacious and nice, but I really haven't walked around in there much by myself and it's honestly a bit confusing because of all the rooms. My hope is that I will get to do at least a bit more independent travel with this new business that a neighbor and I are launching. After all, my main goal in the coming months and years is to get out of my apartment more. It will also be interesting to try and use this app in conjunction with at least one of the other wayfinding apps, such as Microsoft Soundscape.

#12 it's a cool app

I'd say this app is in its infancy, but it's a very interesting navigation experience. It took me a moment to figure out what its function actually was, but once I realize it was a retracing your steps app, it was actually quite useful. I tried it in my house , from my desk, down the hall, around through the kitchen, up the stairs, into my room, then through my room and into the ajoining bathroom. App got me right back to my chair and through all the twists and turns I did with it quite well. I don't really need it for such a task, but I can see it being useful when exploring from a starting point in a building. You can always retrace your steps back to your point of origin.

#13 Beta version of Clew available with support for route saving!

App Developer

Hi Folks,

Based on feedback from many early adopters of Clew (thank you to all!), we are pleased to announce the release of a beta version of Clew that incorporates many of the suggestions we’ve heard from the community.

The short version of this notice is that you can download a beta version of Clew through Apple’s Test Flight using the link below. Makes sure to read the new help file as a number of things about Clew have changed significantly (or keep reading). Here is the link: to the beta.

Here are the major changes:

(1) By far the most requested feature for Clew is route saving. Clew now supports saving routes. Detailed information on how to save routes is given through the in-app “Help” menu. At a high-level, to save a route you must first anchor your route by positioning your phone in a location and orientation that you can return to at a later time (unassisted) and then activating the “Create Landmark” button. One can think of this position as a “landmark” in much the same way as landmark’s are thought of in orientation and mobility courses. It is a place that helps you orient and position yourself within an environment. Good choices for landmarks are vertical surfaces that are easy to find such as door frames, walls, or windows.

To reload the route, you can return to this same location, position your phone as you did when you created the route, and the app will start providing feedback. Many times when navigating along a route, the app will be able to further refine your alignment to the saved route by registering the current environment’s visual features to those that it saw when the route was initially recorded. Since this automatic registration does not happen every time, it is necessary to use a landmark in addition to automatic alignment.

(2) Support for bi-directional routes. Initial versions of Clew only allowed for navigating your route in reverse. Many folks requested the ability to navigate the route in the forward or reverse direction. Support for this has been added. Importantly, we have observed that route guidance is actually more accurate in the forward direction than the reverse direction (especially when loading saved routes).

(3) Enhancements for users with low vision. We have enlarged text and button sizes in many parts of the UI (although, many more changes are in the works to do a better job of supporting users with low vision.). We have also allowed for speech feedback that is not tied to VoiceOver. This means that if you have enabled the voice feedback option, the app will speak directions to you even if you are not using VoiceOver.

(4) Easier to use pause and create landmark procedure. When pausing a route in previous versions of Clew, the user was instructed to place the phone against a vertical surface with the camera facing out and the screen facing the wall. In this configuration the user confirmed that the phone was in the correct position using the volume button (since the screen is not physically accessible in this configuration). We have changed this procedure. Now, alignment is done by pressing the top edge of the phone flush with the vertical surface and the screen facing up. In this configuration, the phone’s position can be confirmed with an onscreen button (which is much more standard). We have also found that this alignment procedure seems to be a bit more accurate than the previous one and is certainly easier to do and comes with less risk of dropping one’s phone.

(5) Sound feedback volume is now tied to the phone’s volume level even if the mute / vibrate switch is activated. This change was made in response to some users who were not hearing sound feedback and had a tough time understanding what was causing this. The reason in many cases was that the mute / vibrate switch was activated. The new behavior is that if the sound feedback option is activated in the app settings, the app will play sounds (provided the phone’s volume is non-zero).

(6) More transparent communication of tracking errors. The previous version of Clew hid most of the potential errors with motion tracking from the user. Now the app communicates errors such as in cases where there are poor visual features in you environment or if the phone is being moved too quickly.

(7) Dropped support for iOS 11. The new route saving feature requires iOS 12 (or higher) to work as well as possible. While a much more basic version of route saving would have been possible with iOS 11, we didn’t feel that it would work well enough to justify implementing it.

We would love feedback on these new features before we release this as an official app update. You can provide feedback through TestFlight e-mail contact or to either of these e-mail addresses ( or

As a final note, while the changes above certainly address some of the feedback we’ve gotten from you all, there are still many things we have not had a chance to do (one notable thing is support for other languages). Please trust us that we are working on these aspects of the app and look forward to continually improving Clew for the community.

Known bugs:
(1) The display of metric units got a bit mangled in the current beta build. It is still apparent what is being communicated, but a space was accidentally left out of the text that VoiceOver reads. This is fixed, but I am waiting to upload a new beta build for when we have collected and responded to more feedback from the community.

Again, the link to the beta version that can be downloaded through TestFlight is here:

All the best, and we really appreciate the feedback we have gotten from the community to help us improve Clew,