Working to beat disability

INNOVATOR

When in school, I met a lot of hearing impaired individuals which sparked off the will inside me to do something for the disabled community and not only for the visually impaired or people with deafness,” says Dhruv Jain, a final year student of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Delhi.

What makes Dhruv different from his peers is the disability that this 21-year old faces. Being hearing impaired doesn't stop this young boy from taking up challenges and designing technologies such as his latest innovation ‘Roshni’, which recently participated in the India Innovation Initiative - i3 2012 National Fair.

“Being a part of IIT gave me the opportunity to work in this direction and innovate technologies that can help the disabled,” says Dhruv. Having faced difficulty during the initial years of his schooling, Dhruv could relate more to the problems of disabled. But what ignited the idea of Roshni was, “The trouble that the visually impaired went through to reach labs in IIT campus,” he informs and explains, “We develop technologies that can help visually impaired as part of Assistive Technology Group.

In the past, whenever we innovated, we invited the visually impaired to our campus, to test the innovation. But everytime somebody had to escort them to the laboratory. This inspired me to develop a technology which could enable visually impaired individual to navigate independently in any indoor area.”

Dhruv began working on the concept in May 2011. “The first two-three months went in exploring different technologies, laying out a plan for implementation and then it took around four months of putting it all together into an ill-formed, basic prototype which had no mechanical covering, just wires coming in and out of electrical circuitry.

We demonstrated this lab prototype in IIT-D building in December 2011,” he shares. This design had substantial errors which took another four months before it could be demonstrated in the IIT-D open-house held last April. “In the last 4 months, we made changes like size-reduction, reliability, look and feel of the device and came up with what was displayed at i3,” he adds.

This cell-phone based indoor navigation system consists of a “waist-worn user module; a user interface in form of a mobile application and a network of wall-mounted infra-red sensors. The waist-worn user’s module which is an assembly of infra-red receiver and an accelerometer is used to trace the position of the person in the sensor-network.

As the user moves in the building, his current position is updated and the navigation information is made available to the user acoustically over text-to-speech engine of phone application,” says Dhruv while ensuring that this system can be easily retrofitted to existing buildings with minimal augmentation to building infrastructure.

What is of utmost importance is that the projected cost of his device is only about “US $20. Eighty-seven per cent of visually impaired are in developed countries. Since GPRS doesn’t work indoors, it becomes difficult for them to commute independently. Roshni will help them overcome this hurdle.”

Truely, and for future, Dhruv is working on a technology that shall aid the hearing impaired to easily determine the source of a sound. Way to go!

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