Published: 14th January 2019
These TN Engineering students have devices that will make the diffabled live easier
With medical costs and prosthetics soaring, people with disabilities often need to make do with bad equipment which compromises their quality of life. We checked out three start-ups
Tech fests are generally deep in geek territory. And IIT Madras' Shaastra was much the same. Right from Real Steel-like Robot Wars and hoverboard races, there were so much unfolding right in front of our eyes. Inside the massive campus in Chennai stood a huge exhibition tent, where students from various engineering colleges all over the country had exhibited their projects. Interestingly, three of them stood out for the innovative technology the had used to help out the differently-abled. We decided to check them out.
Now you hear me!
Roughly a week before we headed to IIT Madras for Shaastra, I watched Andhadhun and Bird Box. While the plots of both films lingered in my mind throughout, the Tech and Innovation Fair Exhibition there had a model that amused me. It was a tiny goggle-like device developed by Abuthahir Tajudeen, a BTech Electrical and Electronics Engineering grad student from KSR Institute of Engineering and Technology, Namakkal.
Now what is so mindboggling about it, you may ask. On top of that, how is it connected to Andhadhun or Bird Box? Disclaimer, some spoilers ahead. Had Sandra Bullock's Malorie Hayes worn this device, she could have had a smooth journey across the river with Boy and Girl. In fact, if the device had been a part of the film, the whole apocalypse could have been avoided. And about Andhadhun, had Akash worn this, he wouldn't have had to risk untying Simi's knots and could have opened the door himself.
We don't want to go ahead with the suspense anymore. Abuthahir's invention i-ADVI (Intelligent Assistive Device for Visually Impaired) is a wearable device that captured the sight in front of you, converts it into audio signals and instructs the blind person. "This makes their lives way easier. Tasks like crossing the road will no longer be a hurdle for the blind," says Abuthahir, who is planning to make the product commercially available via his start-up LEPoCUBE.
The idea popped up a few months ago when Abuthahir came across a blind man during a train journey. "He was using a cane to find his way and it was obviously a strain. That was when I thought of this idea," he says. The start-up which was incubated in the entrepreneurship cell of Kongu Engineering College is backed by the Government of India under the NIDHI-PRAYAS programme. Abuthahir and his team are now working to improve the aesthetics of the products and bring the cost down to Rs 10,000, to make the layman access it easily.
Move like a pro
Mohammed Janish shows us his project — a prosthetic leg — and then points toward a screen that played the video of a young man. In one shot he was climbing down the stairs. The camera then moves to a football ground, where he kicks the ball towards the post. He then hops on to his two-wheeler and rides it. Prima facie, there isn't anything peculiar about this. But then, on taking a closer look, we find that the young man was actually wearing a prosthetic in place of his right leg.
This feedback-based prosthetic leg is the brainchild of Janish and his classmates from MES Abhijith G, Anirudh Arunkumar and Faris Faisal. Since the actions here are based on feedback, it makes the wearer so comfortable that it wouldn't feel like a foreign object, unlike other mechanical legs like a Uni-axial knee, ReMotion knee or a Jaipur limb. Now, wait for the best part. This leg could be available for a price as less as Rs 32,000.
"The guy in the video is a friend of mine," says Janish. "He had to get his right leg amputated 13 years ago and had been using prosthetics ever since. He even decided to study in the College of Engineering, Trivandrum, since the college is close to an amputation centre," he adds. Now, other mechanical legs have a lot of drawbacks. They aren't very comfortable and do not really act according to the wearer's needs. The feedback-based prosthetic legs that are already available in the market costs around $70,000, making it unaffordable for many. "Also he kept on complaining about how it was difficult for him when he goes out to play. He was looking for a spare leg. That is when it hit us! We can make a leg ourselves," says Janish.
The prototype is yet to hit the market and isn't patented yet. The team is also working to solve a few issues with the current model. They have also set up a start-up called Ellisto and tied up with the National Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation to research more.
Workout with ease
Raise your hand if this year (again) your resolution was to hit the gym regularly. But after the first week of the year went by, you found yourself looking for new excuses for that extra hour of sleep. Have you secretly wished that sleeping and stressing burnt calories and gave you a supermodel-like body, because you were too lazy to walk, run and do all the other exercises standing up?A chair would have been nice, at least a few of you would have thought. If that's the case, the innovation we are talking about right now will be a dream come true for you.
As we entered the venue of the Tech & Innovation Fair Exhibitions at Shaastra, the first thing to catch our attention was a chair. Made out of wood, it was equipped with parts that aid workouts for different body parts. Bottom line: one can sit in a comfortable position and work out their core, arms, legs and even do some cardio (there is a cycling pedal at the bottom). Now let's forget our lazy selves for a bit, this is useful majorly for the disabled — to keep themselves fit.
The chair is the brainchild of Jareer Abdus Samad and Gokul Sathyan, two III year BTech students in IIT Madras. "Our initial idea was that of a standing chair which would help arthritis patients exercise. But then, we happened to meet the people from NGO Pathway India, who suggested that we modify the chair this way," says Jareer. "This way, it is accessible for everyone. The use is not limited to arthritis patients alone," he adds.
The current model has a lot of issues and the duo is working to solve it at the earliest. "We have to incorporate features for the differently-abled. Also, the idea is based on intuition. There is no exactness. We have to work on that aspect and implement the idea properly to make a better working model," Jareer concludes.