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Friday, August 5, 2016

Here’s the World’s Smallest Device That Can Help the Blind Move Around Freely and Even Run


The white cane has been the mobility device of choice for blind people for some time now. Additional research on how mobility can be improved has all centered around this cane – how to make it smarter, thinner and lighter. But Abhinav Verma and his friends at IIT Kharagpur dared to think beyond: Why depend on the cane at all? Why not try and create a small device that can help blind people move in an unrestricted fashion and make the white cane obsolete altogether?

It was three years ago, as students, that they created a wearable sonar-based device, which can be worn like a glove. This was the first step towards removing the dependency of the blind on the white cane. The results they achieved were remarkable. Abhinav then decided to pursue the innovation even after college. He started a company called EmbroS and devoted his time to perfecting the product in terms of its efficiency and size.After many trials and experiments, he developed Live Braille, a small and smart device that weighs just about 29 grams.Live Braille is ten times lighter than the white cane and can be worn on a finger, like a ring, and is by far the smallest and lightest device in the world that the blind can use to move around.

Live Braille has the ability to detect obstacles within a range of four metres. The device sends out 50 ultrasonic pulses a second to detect the obstacles and provides almost instantaneous haptic feedback to the user who can then avoid the obstructions and move forward. The device lets the user know where the obstacles are, how far they are, are they moving or not, what their texture is (hard, soft or sharp), and more.Depending on the distance and type of obstacle, the intensity of vibration that the user receives varies – the closer or harder the obstacle the stronger the vibration, and the further or softer the obstacle the lesser the vibration. The user can then make a judgement call based on the intensity of the vibration and move about easily. Live Braille gives the blind quick feedback about their pathways. This helps them move faster and with added confidence.

Abhinav and his team were heartened to see that with their innovation the blind were not just able to walk freely, but run too!For the blind, leaving the cane behind and adopting this new technology is almost like learning a new language. Abhinav and his team assist every user by giving him/her training on how to use Live Braille.“Within a matter of just three weeks, the users get savvy with it. Then it feels like you have got wings,” says Abhinav.Live Braille has a design office in USA that manufactures and assembles the product from its small start-up office in Chandigarh. Live Braille costs Rs. 6,999. Over 1000 people are using Live Braille today and the demand is growing exponentially. Abhinav’s innovation earned appreciation by PM Narendra Modi at the Indian Science Congress 2015. Abhinav wants to change the lives of the 50 million blind people in India. In pursuit of this mission, he is running a fund raising campaign on Milaap. 

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