Teenager invents iAid, navigation device for the visually impaired
There have been a few inventions to assist the visually impaired live a more independent life and navigate better in their environment. Yet, iAid – a combination of a sensor-embedded belt and joystick, developed by 18-year-old Alex Deans is special and ingenious. iAid features four ultrasonic sensors embedded on a belt that scan for potential obstacles using sound, and the information is transmitted to a handheld joystick, which rotates by itself in order to indicate which direction to go. The joystick can be felt rotating with the fingers, and Alex say “it’s like some holding the hand to lead you to the destination.”
Alex drew inspiration to develop this navigation device for the visually impaired when he saw a blind women struggling to cross a street. Only 12 then, Alex believed he could help the women. He spent the next three years, evenings and weekends, developing a device that would use ultrasonic sensors and sound waves to determine where objects are in the surrounding and then transmit the data to the joystick that’ll allow the blind to move with confidence. For outdoor navigation, iAid integrates with smartphone over Bluetooth and use GPS, Google Maps and cloud service.
Alex learned everything from programming to studying how to use ultrasonic sensors and how to simulate human vision in two-three years and with help of inventors from around the world he was able to develop a working prototype of his creation. Alex also spent valuable time conceptualizing and inventing at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
For his truly inspiring innovation, Alex is awarded the Weston Youth Innovation Award with $2,000 prize money. When asked about what he intends to do with the prize money, the science obsessed teen said, he plans to use it to further develop the iAid and hopefully have it ready for the market in a couple of years. We wish him luck!