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UBC team wins tech prize for device that helps visually impaired “see” with sound

DH Vancouver Staff May 30, 2016 8:40 am

A UBC team has taken home the top prize in a prestigious Swedish technology competition for their device that helps the visually impaired navigate the world by turning 3-D space into sound.

Jonathan Ho with the five-member “SoundVision” team says they’re still in shock over winning the Ericsson Innovation Award.

“Really happy, really excited. Probably a little surprised too. We came up to a lot of stiff competition, such as MIT. Most of the students there were PhD students, and our team are mostly still undergraduate students.”

Ho explains the device is works on a simple principle; the mobile device which is worn on the head reads the physical space around the user, creating audio cues for the wearer.

He says they’re now looking at ways to make it less cumbersome for users, like attaching to a white cane.

That’s based on feedback from their clients, something he credits with helping them create a winning design.

“We really wanted to develop a product that was for blind people. So we really took the initiative to talk to blind people and see what were their pains, instead of just developing product from our perspective.”

With the win, the team now takes home more than $36-thousand CDN, along with big recognition. Even Sweden’s Prince Daniel. And he says they’re already getting attention from industry.

“We’re getting help from several companies, they’ve reached out to us, offering investment support, partnerships to help us develop our project and to help apply our project into different applications.”

Ho says they hope to have about 100 of the devices being field tested by year’s end, when they hope to take it to Kickstarter.

More than 800 teams competed in the EIA, which describes itself as “a global competition that gives students the opportunity to develop innovative [Information and Communications Technology] ideas in collaboration with Ericsson experts.”

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DH Vancouver Staff
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