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Indian students develop software for the blind

August 11, 2006 14:47 IST

Four Indian students have developed a software technology that promises to improve the lives of visually challenged people by enabling them to move around more freely and perceive their surroundings better.

The navigation and processing software called Sonique, developed by four students of the Dhirubhai Institute of Information and Communication Technology for global software giant Microsoft's technology competition 'Imagine Cup,' would help the visually impaired to sense the environment around them and calculate the distance to objects present around them using an ultrasonic sensor technology.

The users need to have a palmtop PC-cum-mobile phone for this software solution to work. The students took inspiration from the echolocation process used by bats, for the technology that emits ultrasonic impulses generated by proximity sensors.

The Bluetooth technology is used to communicate signals emanating from objects. These signals are translated into sound frequencies and conveyed to a visually challenged person through a headphone.

"Sonique is an all-encompassing accessibility and navigation solution for visually impaired people. It helps the blind to use technology like never before, both in the real world of day-to-day navigation and in the virtual world of computers," a member of the team said.

"During the inception of the project concept, we were looking for a target group to which our solution would cater to. And we came across a disturbing statistic -- there are about 37 million visually impaired people in the world and the count is still rising," one of the members of the team said.

The whole system would cost over $100 apart from the import costs of some of the devices, he said. The product enables them to enjoy degrees of freedom just like a visually able person and has already been adopted in a blind school in Ahmedabad.

The theme of this year is a challenge to the world's top student technologists to actively contribute to the mission of improving health around the world, he said.

Another Indian team, from NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) and Indraprastha University, have created a military base camp interface, which can transfer information about the health conditions of army personnel.

With an aim of encouraging students to apply their imagination and creativity to technology innovations, Microsoft's premier technology competition for students 'Imagine Cup' in Agra on Monday.

Over 150 students from 41 countries had participated in the global finals in this competition Agra.

'Imagine Cup' has been designed to provide an outlet to students to explore various technological and artistic interests outside the classroom and provides them with opportunities for participation in the future of technology, software and computing, Microsoft Director of Academic initiatives Joe Wilson said.

India has been selected as the fourth venue for the 'Imagine Cup' due to the large momentum in the IT industry in the country, she said.

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