A Class 11 student in Gurugram has built a device that enables visually-impaired people to read by providing them a 3D aural environment using the concept of binaural beats. It's got him a grant of Rs 20 lakh from NITI Aayog to take it forward.
The "EyeScribe" device, developed by Gursimran Singh of the Amity International School in Gurugram, facilitates reading and comprehension by dictating the text and allowing the user to create a mental picture of the subject.
A binaural beat is an "auditory illusion" created when two different tones that are close to each other in frequency are presented dichotically - one through each ear. The listener then perceives the auditory illusion of a third tone - the binaural beat.
"The device has two main functions - it has a camera attached with spectacles that takes pictures of the text that they want to read," Gursimran Singh told IANS in an interview.
"All the processing happens in a micro-processive platform called Raspberry pie. The image goes under an optical character recognition (OCR) software. Then, the text is extracted and converted into audio with the help of a text-to-speech (TTS) engine," he said.
He explained that the device dictates the text and helps blind people do without braille. "If it is connected to your smart phone it can be translated into other languages," he said.
Singh's inspiration came from the struggles of his grandfather's blind brother who is no more.
"I spent a lot of time with him when he was alive. I closely observed him struggling with the challenge. His troubles gave me a push to do something for the blind," he said.
He claims that his device is better than others that blind people use.
"EyeScribe is a wearable technology. It is handy, unlike JAWS that is used by the government in blind schools. It is quite cumbersome as you need a computer to use that," he said.
"My device can be connected with a smartphone and thus translates the text into different languages," he added.
Another feature of EyeScribe is the use of OCR and TTS together. "The two softwares have never been used together before this," he said.
It took him quite some time to build the device, after which he approached many blind schools for testing its design and performance. Many refused, fearing it to be hazardous.
"I then went on to work closely with psychiatrists and eye specialists for a week, who tested EyeScribe on their patients and validated it fit for usage," Singh said.
Till date, Gursimran has helped approximately 150 visually-impaired people with his device. He continues to improvise it based on user feedback and is committed to expanding its market to help more and more people.
He has managed to get a grant-in-aid of Rs 20 lakh and a makerspace from the NITI Aayog to develop EyeScribe at a commercial level for distribution across the country.
What is Singh's message to fellow youngsters?
"Our life is like a web page. The brain sends us pop-ups every day and we should never block them. It is our curiosity which navigates and opens a new tab in our life. Be curious, be humble and always try to make your life memorable for others as well as yourself."
For his extraordinary efforts in the area of community service, he was feted at the seventh Annual Pramerica Spirit of Community awards.
Singh is now in Washington representing India at the Prudential Spirit of Community Award Global Ceremony.
He will be participating in be a series of events at places like The White House, The Smithsonian National Museum and The Andrew Mellon Auditorium.
(Mudita Girotra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)