by April 1, 2011 0 comments

Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPad, the world clambered to take notice. Thousands on blogs buzzed about the new-look device. At the same time, there were a few who, despite the distraction, were succeeding in taking computers to a totally different market-the visually challenged. The prototypes are designed to not only enhance the experience of the blind with the computer but to make regular computers now accessible to them without opting for the more expensive and dated “special needs machine.”

MS Raju, an IIT alumnus, after retiring from an illustrious career decided to undertake a socially responsible project that would not only help creatively utilise his time but also would help the challenged perform tasks that would otherwise not be suitable for them. Raju, along with his son, started work on the Camera Mouse. The product as the name suggests is a mouse than can be rolled onto newspapers or books that want to be read. The camera in the mouse magnifies the content and displays it on the screen with a 15-20x magnification that can be seen on the computer screen if a TV tuner card is attached to it.

“The most important device for low vision people is the CCTV, but these models, usually imported, are around Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000… unaffordable for most visually impaired people,” Raj said, “I felt we could design a high- tech, sturdy yet simple device which enables reading /writing, at a target price of Rs 2,000 to 2,500…”

Raju submitted a proposal to the Department of Science and Technology where he was offered Rs 50,000 if he could finish his prototype within a year. Raju did, and now his mouse is recommended by ophthalmologists through the country. It is available over the counter at several special needs shop and it cost Rs 2,500. Raju swears by its robust nature.

“Out of 500 units in service there was not even one failure, complaint or claim,” Raju said.

Mohit Khanna was a student pursuing his engineering and was asked to develop a project as a year-end exercise. Mohit’s grandfather was visually challenged and decided to focus his efforts on helping the visually challenged around the house. A 7-key customized wireless keyboard developed for Visually Handicapped People which will help them to operate a computer as well as control all the household electrical appliances wirelessly.

Blind Helper aims to be a teacher, an entertainer as well as a companion for a visually handicapped person: says the website-http://www.blindhelper. by the two B.Tech students.

To use the Project Blind Helper, the user puts on the wireless headphones and places his hand on the special 7-key wireless keyboard. This keyboard is attached to a Hub that is in turn attached to a PC or laptop. “Now the user has to switch on the PC. The rest is managed by the e-Vision software. As the PC boots, the software starts automatically and the user is guided by the software regarding the action of buttons and the operations they perform,” says Khanna. The user presses the buttons on his keyboard that corresponds to the function that needs to be performed that includes shutting down appliances at home.

Since the whole system is wireless, the user operate the computer without being close to it,” Khanna explained.

The prototype was recently put up for public view, the project is not a finished product but the patent application has been approved and the product should be available for consumption soon.

“A Multi-line Refreshable Braille Display is the tactile equivalent of a computer monitor,” says Paul D’Souza, “For many years this dream device has been referred to as the ‘Holy Grail of Braille’ amongst the visually impaired community.” A regular MRBD costs closer to $30,000 and which is out of budget for a large visually impaired populace. This device, for which a five line proof of concept device has been made, was conceived to distance the visually impaired from producing and storing Braille books. Apart from the cost, Braille books require a large space for storage.

MRBS can save upto sixty times the shelf space required for regular printed media.

“Access to digital libraries would be an immediate benefit — in fact it would be possible for the visually impaired to actually own a digital library — a conventional Braille library is not an option for most people due to space requirements of Braille books,” said D’Souza.

The books are written on the MRBD and can be read by the user, this device can have multiple instances of books written on it hence compiling several shelves of space. The entire details are however, sketchy and with the product still in development, the price is still under consideration and isn’t available for consumption.

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