Students create system to help visually impaired use touchscreens

The WatVision project won several awards, including the James Dyson award

Six mechatronics engineering students at Waterloo University developed a system to help people with visual impairments use touchscreen devices.

Called WatVision, the system uses a smartphone app and camera to scan a screen. The user wears either a specially designed ring or a glove. When they point at something on the screen, the app reads out what’s under the user’s finger.

While the ring is cheaper, costing less than $2 CAD to produce, the glove provides a better experience. It includes a Bluetooth sensor and vibration motor which can provide feedback to the user.

The team, composed of Craig Loewen, Jennifer Kim, Joseph Lundy, Lior Lustgarten, Elizabeth Morrow and Jake Rampertab, decided to build WatVision for their capstone project after reading a blog post. The post walked readers through the life of a blind woman. What the struck the team was that she couldn’t operate her coffee maker because of the touchscreen.

The project has gone on to win a number of accolades, including a GM Innovation Award. The project also placed second for the People’s Choice award at Troncon, an annual mechatronics engineering event.

Most recently, the project won the James Dyson national award. WatVision and the two runners-up will move onto the next stage of the Dyson award. A panel of Dyson engineers will select a shortlist from those three and other international projects.

Despite graduating and all moving into full-time positions, the six students will continue to support the project. The $3,000 prize from the Dyson award will go back into the project.

Furthermore, the team has taken it open source. Some members plan to talk with companies to about integrating the technology. The goal is to have the system available in ATMs and self-checkouts and similar touchscreen-heavy applications.

Source: University of Waterloo Via: 680 News