Cube - An assistive device for blind
Cube device in action!
Cube device in action!
'Field of View' increased with cube's camera
Proof Of Concept hardware
Alpha 'CAM Mechanism' based prototype designed in fusion
Alpha prototype's PCB design in eagle
What it does
CUBE is a compact assistive device that fits into a smartphone port to help the blind self-navigate through space, recognise people and objects with the help on an additional camera, as well as type, learn & read braille with tiny refreshable braille cells.
Being able to see is one of the greatest gifts we have, without which life would be difficult. Unfortunately, around 285 million people globally and 40 million people in India are either blind or have low vision. Witnessing for ourselves the challenges few of our blind friends faced daily moved us to work on a solution leveraging the power of ubiquitous smart-phones to ease their situation considering comfort and privacy. Drawing from the design of traditional braille keyboards, cube takes the form of an attachment to almost any smartphone via a flexible interface and provides tactile feedback to help navigate and learn, read & type braille
How it works
Cube is a compact device that fits into the charging port (or earphone jack) of a smartphone. It has 4 refreshable braille cells (24 dots) on one side, and a camera on the other. The camera on the device along with the smartphone’s camera is used to capture & process (computer vision) a wide field of view to provide rich navigation information to the user through tactile braille cells (on proximity, nature of obstacles) & phone’s vibration. The refreshable braille cells project symbols to convey time, proximity to obstacles etc. and helps to learn braille to type on the smartphone in braille (only 6 dots are used here) very swiftly (they rely on slow audio feedback for typing currently), by folding the device onto the back of the phone with the help of a flexible connector, then pressing the raised cells inward which is facilitated by the two way SMAs (Shape Memory Alloys). The device works along with a mobile application where user can select the mode of use!
Absence of a compact, all-in-one device for blind useful for both navigation and faster communication (major issues) because of low field of view (while using a single camera) and slow response of current systems (Orcam) pushed us to understand the detailed requirements of the visually challenged. We interacted with several blind people, volunteers and organizations like the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled. We even got an opportunity to meet Mr. Mahantesh G. Kivadasannavar, president of World Blind Cricket Ltd. He too shared the same concerns that we had while pandering upon this idea. Our alpha prototype was a refreshable text-to-Braille device with 20 cells about the size of a smartphone with a Perkins-style keyboard for typing, a camera at the back for scanned text detection and various inbuilt connectivity options. But this device has few cons as it was power consuming and forced the user to carry a separate device while they already had a very powerful device: the smartphone! This led us to think about a device that can leverage smartphone's capability and so the CUBE was born! The current rudimentary prototype works on "Two-Way Shape Memory Alloys" for projection of 4 cells fitting in a compact space along with a camera and processor for extensive computer vision.
How it is different
Cube is one of its kind that tackles the problem of navigation, learning, reading and object/person detection, all while being compact and easy to use. While there are several other products that solve these problems separately, there are no such that caters to all these needs integratedly. This device was designed to be as user friendly and as compact as possible, so that, instead of leaving a visually challenged user to be weighed down by the social stigma that arises due to the person’s dependence on others for navigation or bulky equipments, we enable them to effortlessly connect with others despite their challenges. Despite today's technology racing ahead of its time, the visually challenged have been unable to enjoy its benefits but this device however will make their dream a possibility. We predict the final manufacturing cost of the product to plummet around 7000-9000 INR which will also be an unique offering considering other's sky high prices.
We have spoken and tested our proof-of-concept with various visually challenged people in order to validate our ideas and have so far received a great response. We now intend to build a beta prototype and give it to users for detailed testing. If successful, we intend to release it in the market and distribute it to users through partnerships with schools and organizations for the blind. We would try to add more features to enhance user experience, according to feedback from the users.
Our team has won two awards and counting more. We placed second in the Shaastra's Tech and Innovation Fair of IIT Madras with over 30K footfall in January 2019 and bagged first prize in Bootcamp of the Entrepreneurship Summit held at IIT Madras in June 2019.