Blind people navigate by understanding where objects are around them, and what those objects are, in order to create a mental map of their surroundings. “Seeing for the Blind” is a patent-pending assistive device that gives visually impaired users a full, comprehensive understanding of their surroundings. It uses echolocation to collect information on where objects are around a user, and it uses a deep learning convolutional neural network to recognize what specifically those objects are. The device emits a series of beeps and vibrating pulses that change in pitch and intensity to convey distance. The device also reads the names of objects recognized by the machine learning algorithm to the user. This innovative combination of knowing both where and what gives the user a full spatial awareness, and is what makes this device the best on the market, as nothing as advanced or comprehensive exists. (https://tinyurl.com/y5a2pdkq). Additionally, this device is very compact, as everything fits within a pair of glasses and a belt pouch. This product has been tested with both American and Indian consumers and has received enthusiastic approval from both test participants and accessibility experts. The product is currently being piloted in blind schools and hospitals in India, including the Aravind Eye Hospital, where patients are currently using it in the rehabilitation center. I am working with a non-profit named Vision-Aid (http://www.visionaid.org/) to license my product to them for production and distribution within India. In a few years, this product will help millions of blind people ‘see again’.
What inspired you (or your team)?
When I was 13, I visited India with my family. While I was on a train in Mumbai, I remembered seeing a blind woman get in. She was holding a makeshift cane made out of a scrap metal rod, and was hitting it against people, chairs and luggage. I saw the primitive technology she was using to navigate, and I realized that even in America, this is the most widespread solution. Most blind people around the world are using stone age technology to find their way. I thought that there must be more advanced solutions that allow the blind to navigate more easily, and through my research, I found that there was! However, the devices on the market were nowhere close to perfect, and they only solved half the problem, either telling their users where objects are, or what those objects are, but never both. Also, these devices are exorbitantly expensive, costing between hundreds to thousands of dollars. So, I invented Seeing for the Blind, to provide the most comprehensive solution for the visually impaired, while also being affordable for everyone. Eventually I hope that everybody, including that blind woman in India, will be able to see again.