Teen inventors create an app that “sees” the world for people who are visually impaired
What if there was a technology that could help someone with no or low vision increase their spatial awareness? Eugene Choi, Raffu Khondaker, Irfan Nafi, and Pranav Ravella founded Team Atheia and set out to do just that. The four teenagers are friends and students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia.
Grant funding through our partner, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Partnership Fund, directly supported Team Atheia’s efforts. Since their Foundation grant award, Team Atheia has iterated over six designs with groups from the National Industries of the Blind, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, Virginia's Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired, cyber.org, and several other groups.
At the end of their testing, they settled on an iOS application with an offline mode, meaning Atheia can operate without an internet connection. Their application is designed to:
- Scan and return a list of detected objects and their frequency, sorted by closest to farthest
- Retrieve all text and state which object the text is on
- Recognize specific people designated by the user
- Identify people and their relative position to you
- Vibrate device in the direction of an object or describe the location
- Give the time, place, and surrounding items of the specified object
- Answer specific questions about the environment
The impressive application pairs with an accompanying haptic bracelet, so it can create an experience of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user. The vibrations help users avoid obstacles in their path and let them know when they are close to an object they seek.
Then, after interviewing several community members who were visually impaired, Team Atheia learned of a bigger problem that persists. “People with visual impairments are three times more likely to be a target in crimes compared to people without visual impairments,” they shared. As a result, the team made sure the bracelet could also function as an emergency alert system in case the user ever felt they were in danger.
We are looking forward to their official launch in Fall 2021! Visit atheia.org for more information.