UAE's mobile app to help visually impaired move around

UAE, mobile app, visually impaired, incubator,
A mobile app that helps people with visual impairments to navigate their surroundings through sensors.-Photo by Ryan Lim/Khaleej Times

Abu Dhabi - It has been developed by two Indian nationals.

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Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Wed 11 Sep 2019, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Wed 11 Sep 2019, 9:11 PM

A mobile app that can help people with visual impairments move around is one of the winning projects in the social incubator programme of Abu Dhabi.
The Ma'an Authority for Social Contribution on Wednesday announced the 10 winning teams for the first cycle of Ma'an Social Incubator Programme, which aims to support people of determination.
Developed by two Indian nationals - Nandujit Prathap and Visakh G.S - the project called Ioptyc by Nexart uses distance sensors and visual recognition technology to assist people with visual impairments.
The project has two parts: A mobile app and a special glove.
"Ioptyc utilises the power of Google Tensorflow Lite for visual recognition of objects in front of the user, who may be visually impaired," Prathap told Khaleej Times.
Once the object in front of the person is detected, the app sends an alert and announces the name of the object over the user's headphone, with the help of Google natural languages package," he explained.
The glove, on the other hand, notifies the user through vibrations from the buzzer.
"The glove's sensors are capable of detecting objects as far as two metres away, and the intensity of vibrations varies depending on how far the object is from the user."
For Prathap and Visakh, what started as a concept will soon be an actual product that can help those who need it most.
As one of the social incubator winners, they will receive Dh200,000 in funds, along with training, mentorship and business development. Funds will be released at every successful milestone the participant reaches.
Salama Al Ameemi, director-general of Ma'an said: "We are absolutely delighted with the incredibly innovative 10 solutions that have been awarded a place in the Ma'an Social Incubator programme, which is now fully focused on helping the entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality."
All winning teams have earned the opportunity to test their social start-up ideas and learn more about the market. For 16 weeks starting this month, a series of workshops and sessions with mentors are lined up to support them in converting their ideas into actual products and services.
"These social start-ups will contribute towards establishing sustainable social solutions for people of determination and raising their standard of living in Abu Dhabi and the UAE in general. This is a hugely important phase in our first incubator program, so we are looking forward to working with the passionate people leading each of the start-ups," Al Ameemi said.
Among the 10 winning teams, six were from the country, while four were from different parts of the world.
Ma'an's success
Since it was launched in May this year, 130 ventures applied for the Ma'an Social Incubator programme. Some entries were submitted from as far as Brazil, Denmark, France, Nigeria and India.
Later in August, a shortlist of 25 nominees were invited to pitch their solutions in front of a panel of judges, who studied all the proposals and selected the final 10.
How Ioptyc works
>Consists of a mobile app and a special glove
>Uses visual recognition technology to detect objects in front of a user
>Once something is detected, the app announces the name of the object over the user's headphone
>The glove's sensors can detect objects as far as two metres away and sends vibrations to notify the user
Meet a new 'buddy' with this programme
Two Emiratis and two Italians have come up with a social start-up programme that allows people of determination to attend recreational activities - with a trained 'buddy'.
Presenting their programme called 'RAB3I' (Emirati word for 'My Friends'), the team was also one of the Ma'an winners.
"Ra3i is a recreational buddy program for people of determination. It matches adults - both people of determination and volunteers - based on their shared interests," explained Abeer Amir, 29, one of the Emiratis on the start-up team.
She noted that the programme is designed to encourage the buddies to enjoy experiences in the Abu Dhabi community and a build long-lasting friendship.
It ultimately aims to increase the presence of people of determination in the public and social spheres.  

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