A hearing aid that guides blind walk safely

Bengaluru: A tech start-up, floated by a former Wipro geek, has innovated a smart hearing aid with sensors to make the visually challenged (blind) walk safely by avoiding objects on way.

“The hearing aid (echolocation) helps the visually impaired to walk around by sensing objects that may block their way from a safe distance through sound,” said Innovation Hub Technologies Ltd. co-founder V.P. Deshmukh.

The mobile sized device, christened Ausion and weighing less than 100 grams, alerts the user to objects in the vicinity through a pair of ear buds.

Though the blind are said to be blessed with extra sensory perception to familiarise themselves with surroundings, hearing aids help them through sound waves or echoes from objects in the vicinity.

“Our device can alert its users on the distance and direction in which an object is located through different musical notes such as sa-re-ga-ma-pa-da-ni-sa or other singing notes,” a technology magazine quoted Deshmukh saying.

As messages on objects around are coded in musical notes, the company will train users on how to use it for navigating from one to another location.

The device, fitted to a stick, has two sensors on front to point in the direction in which the user wants to walk. It has four switches, including two for volume control with an earphone jack, one for power and another for on-and-off.

“The tonal difference from objects will indicate if there is a pothole ahead on the road or in the vicinity,” Deshmukh said.

The on/off switch can also be used to set the range up to 10 metres or 33 feet.

Start-up’s other co-founder S.N. Padmanabhan also worked earlier with the global software major Wipro and leading IT consulting firm Mindtree before joining Deshmukh to set up the company.

Teachers and students from blind schools participated in trials for over a year to make a prototype for testing in real-time.

The hearing aid is priced at Rs.3,500 and will be distributed through social organisations and schools across the city before a formal launch in the market.

The National Association of Blind, based at Indore in Madhya Pradesh, helped the co-founders in developing and testing the hearing aid.

“We developed the device to help the blind, give them freedom in mobility without depending on others to walk safely from point A to point B,” Deshmukh added.