UAE student makes ODI wearable for the blind

An eighth-grader from GEMS Modern Academy won Dh10,000 after developing ODI, a wearable device that can help the visually impaired people avoid accidents while walking

ODI innovator GEMS
Vishweswar Eswaran (centre) receives the Innovator of the Year award

A UAE student has won Dh10,000 for demonstrating how low-cost wearable technology can help the visually impaired by presenting a smart device called ODI.

Vishweswar Eswaran, a grade 8 student at GEMS Modern Academy, created the wearable device, which detects static obstacles and alerts the user with vibrations and voice notifications. He was inspired to find a solution for those with partial vision after he witnessed the difficulties his visually impaired grandfather faced when moving around.

ODI connects to a mobile app via Bluetooth and gives voice notifications when an obstacle is detected within 30cm.

He now has the opportunity to convert his idea for a wearable object detection device into a business start-up, thanks to the award from GEMS Innovation. Vishweswar and his friends were among the ten teams presenting innovative solutions at a Demo Day last week. They were chosen from more than 700 students from 40 schools and were given ten minutes each to pitch to and interact with leaders and investors in the region, including leaders from GEMS Education, the Prime Minister’s Office, various incubators and venture capital firms, as well as various industries.

The awards were part of the culmination of the Arab Innovation Centre for Education (AICE) Accelerator Programme and were given away in a recent ceremony at GEMS Wellington International School. The AICE Accelerator Programme is an initiative supporting school students in the UAE in their efforts to create their own start-ups.

Vishweswar conducted extensive research and trials in the development of his prototype, which has functionalities superior to similar solutions available in the market. And with 285 million visually impaired people globally, he sees an enormous market potential.

There are 1.5 million visually impaired people in Southwest Asia, with 90 per cent of them in the low-income group.

Vishweswar plans to build awareness of his product via social media, stalls and visiting visually impaired centres.

ODI will be distributed via online stores and resellers. It costs Dh300 to build one unit.

“The UAE and Dubai has an entrepreneurial spirit with a business ecosystem conducive to the creation of ideas,” says Dino Varkey, Group Executive Director and Board Member of GEMS Education. “The Arab Innovation Centre for Education is one such initiative by GEMS Education that goes above and beyond the ordinary and spurs innovation in young minds. By encouraging talent and creativity we have provided students with an environment that we hope will foster a competitive spirit among themselves to create winning ideas. I want to congratulate all the students that took part this year, and especially Vishweswar.”

The GEMS Innovation Awards Ceremony also saw awards and merits distributed to the winning teams from the GEMS Maker Day and Ibdaa Week of Innovation events that saw many teams put up practical real-world products and services held earlier this year.

GEMS Education conceived and launched the AICE to provide a platform and build an ecosystem to promote, foster and practice research, innovation and entrepreneurship. It provides and supports open innovation, collaboration and access to national and regional talent to create solutions, nurture entrepreneurs and build a robust think tank community.