UAE Invention That Brings Colour Into the Lives of the Visually Impaired Wins James Dyson Award 2020
‘Touch’ smart ring identifies colour and text for visually impaired or those with colour vision deficiency
• According to the World Health Organisation, more than 2.2 billion people around the world are estimated to suffer from vision impairment or blindness. *
• Of these, 1 billion have moderate or severe distance vision impairment or blindness as well as near vision impairment*. Touch allows users to reconnect with the excitement of discovering colours at their own pace.
United Arab Emirates, September 21, 2020: This year’s national James Dyson Award winners in the UAE is the Touch device – an invention that can help people with visual impairments identify colours through lights and speech feedback. People with visual impairments may not be able to see colours, but they do have a conceptual idea of what different colours are. With the invention of the Touch Device, they can now be in control of some of the basic daily functions of life including being able to choose the colour of clothes they pick from a wardrobe or identify supplies such as vegetables at the grocery store.
Invented by two university students in the UAE, Touch is an elegantly designed smart ring, white in colour and with a central channel that can flash different colours. The Touch smart ring is an easy to use device that enables people with visual impairments to ‘see’ colours and small text.
It uses haptic, audio, and visual feedback to alert the user. This enables the ring to vibrate, light up or communicate with the user through audio speech via a Bluetooth earphone and identify the colour of clothing or read the small text on a label for a grocery item.
In colour mode the user holds the ring to the piece of clothing for two seconds to allow it to detect the colour and read it back to the user. If multiple colours are found the user can slowly move the ring across the clothing to allow it to scan the colours and read them back. Double-tapping and holding the ring switches it to reading mode and they will then be slowly prompted to move the ring slowly across the text as the words are read back to them.
The wearable technology is designed to be discrete and comfortable for users to wear regularly, a process that required eight different prototypes and reiterations.
The winners were recognised for their accomplishment by H.E. Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth, during the awarding ceremony hosted at Youth x Hub Dubai. During her video, she mentioned, “It is my pleasure to recognise our country’s young, talented inventors and engineers and I am thrilled to see such a strong line up of competitors today. The youth are the pride and joy of our nation. As the UAE positions itself as the hub of innovation and ideas, we must recognise that we would not be able to do so without the persistence and diligence of young people in engineering, science and technology.
Out of 27 countries worldwide, the UAE is the first Arab country selected for the James Dyson Award and that is not a coincidence. It is a country of firsts, and we revel in supporting and equipping our people, especially our youth to strive for excellence and exploring unchartered territories. Celebrating the work that young people are doing is our way of saying thank you in choosing to go big, and building the world to be better than before.”
American University of Sharjah students - Maryam Moustafa and Nada Aldash, are the inventors behind the Touch smart ring and were encouraged to enter the James Dyson Award by their professors.
“It can be hard to understand the challenges people with visual impairments have to face. Even for a simple task as picking out clothing or groceries, many have to rely on other people to choose for them. But with Touch they can reclaim their independence. We are so proud to have won the James Dyson Award and hope that Touch can become a mainstream and valuable tool for people with visual impairments,”
said Maryam Moustafa.
As part of the initial development phase, inventors met with members of the Emirates Association for the Visually Impaired where they learned how members have their own conceptual idea of what colours are. The students realised that it was not their role to tell people with visual impairments what colours are but instead develop a tool that allows them to discover the physical world for themselves. Their initial idea was to create an add-on that could be attached to a user’s cane. This proved unpopular with users who preferred a more discrete and stylish device.
As a result, over a three-month period they developed and tried eight different prototypes of the wearable technology before settling on their final design. They were able to fine tune their concept with support from the university, which provided the equipment such as laser cutters to build their prototypes.
Winning the national leg of the James Dyson Award will inject AED 9,500 into the Touch project, paving the way for the two inventors to create a working prototype of the device. Eventually they plan to expand with a range of complementary accessories for the smart ring to include necklaces, bracelets, cufflinks, and more.
Nada Aldash, one of the inventors, said: “Winning the James Dyson Award has given us the encouragement to fully develop the Touch smart ring. It’s amazing to think that from our initial brainstorm and our discussions about how colour is perceived by people with visual impairments that we were able to create a needed solution. We are still in the early phases regarding the future direction of the device, but from our discussions with future users we now understand that there is huge potential for a simple smart ring that is comfortable to wear, and adds another dimension to their experience.”
Touch, along with UAE runners up Grounded and Obilizer, will progress to the international stage of the James Dyson Award. The International prizes will be announced on 19th November 2020.
The Runners Up
Problem: A growing number of people are suffering from health problems caused by the stress of working long hours with little respite to care for themselves. Many would like to improve their health through activities such as yoga but are unable to attend classes or are too busy with work. As a result, a solution is required that allows them to take part in yoga at their own convenience.
Solution: Grounded is a smart solar-powered surface designed for people to stretch and practice yoga from the comfort of their own homes. Grounded is an interactive yoga mat that unobtrusively integrates wellness and helps develop sustainable habits that take care of your mental and physical wellbeing.
Inventor: Arpana Murugappan
University: American University of Sharjah
Problem: After the Covid-19 pandemic started the inventor became concerned about the lack of effective sterilization of public utilities like biometric access systems, elevator buttons, washbasins and door handles at his residential building. He discovered there was no easy way to use modular designed UV sterilizer that can sterilize multiple types of objects and surfaces at the same time.
Solution: The Obilizer enables users to sterilize a wide range of objects of any size, rather than just a single type of object or surface. It is also very interactive and easy-to-use, compared to other sterilizers in the market which are bulky and complex. The device also connects to a smart mobile app allowing users to select objects they want to sterilize while automatically calculating the estimated sterilization time.
Inventor: Sarthak Sethi
University: Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Pilani
James Dyson Award
The competition is open to student inventors with the ability and ambition to solve the problems of tomorrow. Winning solutions are selected by Sir James Dyson and show ingenuity, iterative development and commercial viability. With students from 27 markets and regions now competing, the award is set to welcome new approaches to a broader range of global issues than ever before.
Since the competition first opened fifteen years ago, the iconic inventor has already contributed over £1m to championing boundary-breaking concepts. To help finalists to develop their novel idea, each year the International winner is awarded £30,000, and National winners in each participating region receive £2,000. Unlike other competitions, participants are given full autonomy over their intellectual property. New for 2020, Sir James has introduced another international prize: the Sustainability winner, who will also receive £30,000 in prize money.
The James Dyson Award forms part of a wider commitment by Sir James Dyson, to demonstrate the power of engineers to change the world. The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, the James Dyson Foundation and James Dyson Award embody a vision to empower aspiring engineers, encouraging them to apply their theoretical knowledge and discover new ways to improve lives through technology and design engineering.
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