“OurVision- empowering the visually impaired through assistive technology. A device that lets you hear what you can’t see.” Dr. Megha. P. Arakeri, Project Lead
Using computer vision techniques, Prof. Megha Arakeri and students of the IEEE CIS students branch (Region 10), M. S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology (RIT), Bangalore in collaboration with the National Association for the Blind (NAB) created a device called ‘OurVision’ to assist the blind. This portable assistive device is a low-cost wearable device that can help the visually impaired/blind user with reading and navigation. It can read out loud the English text from a book, magazine, or newspaper, as well as signs in the regional language (Kannada, Telagu, Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi) of the user’s choice. The device helps the user to read in any location, lighting condition, and alignment. The device also assists the blind person in navigation by enumerating various objects in his surroundings and also notifying him of the distance to the nearest object. The assistive device works both in offline and online modes. See the below video that demonstrates how the device works.
The project impacted the community by providing a cost-effective and portable assistive device for the blind. The end goal of ‘OurVision” is to help blind students in their education and careers as well as to provide a tool to help individuals walk independently. Visually challenged people are able to adopt this technology as an empowering tool rather than searching for a costly device available in the market. With this device, visually impaired students can read and move around independently like their non-blind peers.
The project team developed 11 devices that are currently deployed in the library of NAB. The team worked closely with NAB throughout the project. The NAB team stated: “The visually challenged students who are using it for their studies and navigation purposes have provided very good feedback on the efficiency and portability of the device compared to others that they have used in the past. In order to provide this benefit to a greater number of blind/visually impaired students, we are looking forward to collaborating with the professor and student team to develop more devices with further enhanced features based on the feedback from the students. We highly appreciate and commend the efforts of Professor Dr. Megha Arakeri and students of the Information Science and Engineering department of M. S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bangalore in using their technical skills in Al for the benefit of the visually challenged people.”
Approximately 100 students affiliated with the National Association for the Blind are currently using this device. However, the blind students were not the only students who benefitted from this project. The students from the IEEE CIS Student Branch also learned a great deal during the design, development, and deployment of this project. “The project basically provided me the opportunity to apply my engineering skills to product development. The development process involved different stakeholders, an NGO, and high school students which allowed for sharing of experiences and feedback on the product. It enhanced my technical and non-technical skills. Overall a great opportunity to work on societal problems,” shared one member of the student team. In addition, local high school students were trained in the design process and got firsthand experience in creating a technical solution for a community in need.
The EPICS in IEEE mentor assigned to the project, Dr. Ruby Annette, AI Researcher and Machine Learning Engineer at Matilda Cloud, reflected on the project and said “The students have made a great effort and are thoroughly knowledgeable about the technology being used and are excited to make the product even better for the visually impaired community.” Dr. Annette also remarked “I cherish this mentoring experience. I am very glad that I could contribute to the technology that could impact the lives of many blind students using Computer Vision.”
The EPICS in IEEE committee is excited about the results of this impactful program. Through the $4,400 grant from EPICS, made possible through the partnership with the IEEE Foundation, and the generous donors who support EPICS in IEEE, the student team was able to take an idea and turn it into a working solution all while working hand in hand with the community partner. If you are interested in supporting future projects, you may donate here. Visit the EPICS in IEEE site to learn about other projects and future proposal deadlines.