A pocket-sized smart reading device created by United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) students is aiming to give visually-impaired people the technology that will allow them to read whatever they want whenever they want.
Braille Eye – a startup currently being incubated at UAEU’s Science and Innovation Park – uses optical character recognition (OCR), which converts documents captured by a digital camera into editable and searchable data, to translate written material into Braille, the writing system used by people who are blind or have severe sight problems.
Designed to be no bigger than a standard mobile phone, the device’s camera enables users to take a picture of the document they want to read, and then converts it to Braille.
The UAEU team consists of Emiratis Faraj Alfaraj, 22, who is studying environmental biology, Mohammed Alhammadi, 22, who is studying electrical engineering. 23-year-old electrical engineering student Mahmoud Abdulmalik, Jingru Ma, 20, who is studying finance and banking, Saifeldden Hatim, a 21-year-old chemical engineering student and Abdulrahman Ghazal, 20, who is a supply chain and marketing student.
“We initially came up with the idea to help a friend and co-founder in our team, who is a visually-impaired student,” said Alfaraj. “We wanted to help him with his studies and his daily life, so we came up with Braille Eye.
“After that, we thought of all the visually-impaired people around the world who could benefit from this, and the dream of making Braille Eye a tool to ease their lives on a daily basis was born,” he added.
According to the World Health Organisation, there are an estimated 285 million visually-impaired people worldwide, of which 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision.
“This device is intended to help visually-impaired people around the world become more independent in their daily lives. It will mean they don’t have to wait for Braille versions of books to be published,” Alfaraj said.
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