A Catalan start-up proposes a kit of sensors to facilitate the daily life to the blind. The project has attracted interest from associations of the blind in 14 countries. The application, for sale in 2016, helps the blind in day-to-day actions.
Knowing what color is the jersey I want to buy, to know if I left a lamp open and what is it, what lunch box is the rice or lentils, what brik is milk or juice, know if my son is away from me When we play in the park or … All these activities are relatively daily and relatively easy to perform. Except if your eyes can not see. To make life easier for this group, Jaume Cunill and the Tech4freedom team have developed a tool that, for the moment, has already aroused the interest of ONCE.
“We have developed an application for smartphones where if we ask what is wanted, it gives response to the user,” explains Cunill. Tech4freedom sensors are the same as those on clothing labels, “they are proven and proven technology” that can be easily placed, reused and adapted to the needs of the wearer: “The labels can be put in a bottle of white wine or sparkling water to differentiate them and once the package has been emptied, relocate in another bottle. In addition to the sensor system, this company offers “a very powerful software that reads the sensors and is, at the same time, very adaptable to the different needs that may arise”, explains the entrepreneur.
The kit proposed by Cunill and his team is a small device equipped with sensors that capture and analyze information from the environment and transmit it to the user through their smartphone. This way, obstacles, distances, descriptions and other important information can be placed, depending on the activity that is carried out. The kit costs about 500 euros and will be available from 2016. The so-called Box contains a large part of the sensors in the kit and is the “brain of the whole system and coordinates the sensors, internal and external.”
An aerial obstacle detector is installed on the cane, harness of the user guide dog and detects the obstacles that are at head height. It also includes 50 electronic identification tags, some of which can be washed, and a series of beacons, small blue boxes equipped with bluetooth, calculation intelligence and data processing that can be programmed and add many functions of daily use in the Kit.
Among these functions, according to Cunill, there may be obstacle detection, color detection, object recognition, remoteness alarm or approaching an object, positioning, urban navigation, thermometer, and environmental information.
The toy that was an invention
The story behind this widget appears, like many others, for reasons quite removed from what it has ended up being. During 2011, Cunill and his partner dedicated to creating patents for toys and then proposing them to childcare companies. They made a pair, one of them was an interactive disguise with which when it was close to another disguise of the same characteristics, they recognized and interacted with each other.
While they were developing the patent they realized that this costume could be sportswear for the blind: “With the disguise you could detect where a ball is or if there is any obstacle around it,” says Cunill. The two entrepreneurs began to work on it and even before the project took shape, they spoke with ONCE. “They loved the idea,” says Cunill. Then began a process of coexistence with the collective to learn their ideas and needs: “We wanted to see how they go to school, how they cook and how they play sports to see if our invention was viable as we had thought.”
“What we wanted to avoid was to be very intrusive, so we try to give accurate information when needed, and not be guiding a user by giving them constant directions,” says Cunill. This learning process took about two years. The development of the widget made the entrepreneur travel to the world: “With a simulator we work with volunteers from several countries, with all this experience we started to work”.
Internationalization and smart cities
The company was set up in October and now employs four people. Despite the short life of this company, it has already attracted the attention of associations of blind and distributors in 14 countries. “Once we are consolidated we will take the international step and the first country will be the Czech Republic,” says Cunill.
During this week and with the collaboration of Barcelona Activa, Tech4freedom is present in the Smart City Expo World Congress to present their project because, as he says, Cunill, “what Tech4freedom can bring to people and the cities is a lot”.