We've mentioned before that we love to see the maker community using their know-how to improve people's lives, and that's certainly the case with Indian student Pranav Nandankar: his Electrovision prototype shows how low-cost and beginner-friendly parts can be used to create something of use to people with visual impairments.
Interviewed by local news site iamin following a demonstration of his Electrovision cap at the RAIT Technology Festival earlier this month, Pranav explained that he has long been interested in technology. "I have always been very curious about electronic gadgets," he told reporter Deepak Singh. "My first ever electronics project was a walking robot which I had created using the simple pulley mechanism with an old CD player, while in the 9th standard."
Electrovision, by contrast, is remarkably simple: it's little more than a cheap ultrasonic distance sensor hooked up to a full-size Arduino Uno, which is then stuck on an off-the-shelf baseball cap. Pranav's project isn't revolutionary in and of itself, but he's using it as a springboard to help encourage others to get involved in engineering for the common good. "I want to touch the lives of people with the help of engineering and technology," he explained. "The basic concept behind 'Electrovision' is to tell people how innovations can be made by using simple electronic components. It only requires basic engineering."
Pranav's project isn't the first time an Arduino has been paired with an ultrasonic sensor and some form of feedback system - typically a buzzer or a vibration motor - for the visually impaired. Back in 2011 Grathio released the design for an Arduino Pro Mini-based haptic glove which uses a pair of ultrasonic sensors to indicate distance and direction by pressing on the wearer's wrist; a few years later, Dhaval Malaviya created the Netra, which is almost identical in function to Pranav's Electrovision but mounted in a portable box rather than a wearable cap.
Sometimes, though, engineering isn't about breaking entirely new ground, but in bringing a concept to a new audience - and if Pranav's work encourages even one person to get involved in the maker community, it's been a worthwhile endeavour.
Pranav Nandankar, 19, was always intrigued by the world of electronic gadgets. His avid interest in technology has helped him invent a device named 'Electrovision' for the visually-impaired. The device, which can be attached to a cap or a hat by the user, will emit signals when an obstacle appears in front of the user within the radius of one meter, thus eliminating the need for the white cane.Image credit: Deepak Singh/iamin