Qatari Students Create Navigation System for the Blind

An all-female team of students from Qatar University has created a wearable navigation device for the blind and visually imparied.

From the 285 million people worldwide who have some form of visual impairment, 39 million have irreversible blindness. For these people, navigation round their homes, schools, and workplaces is a constant challenge.

Fatma Al-Mesaifri, Maryam Al-Ansari, Roquaya Al-Shaabi and Yasmin Halwani noticed that devices for the visually impaired, such as “intelligent canes” with sensors, were not always fitting for college campuses and similarly crowded environments.

For this reason, they decided to collaborate and find a solution, and entered the Microsoft student innovation competition called “The Imagine Cup.”

Their invention, 3D-Kindio, can be installed on a hat or worn as headphone, and lets users venture into a room and identify objects without assistance. The device senses objects around the user, emitting auditory cues with various speed and pitch, depending on the proximity to the object.

The user must carry a laptop or tablet that runs the device in their backpack. However, once the system is past the prototype stage, the team hopes that the laptop or tablet can be replaced with a tiny microprocessor, or allow the system to be installed in mobile phones, so that it is easier to use and carry.

The team of students also captured attention at the Imagine Cup competition for being one of three all-female teams to participate.