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IUST Innovators Have A Basket For Specially Abled People

by Dr Rabia Noor

SAAHI is a wearable band that picks up sounds of high intensity in its vicinity and gives vibrotactile (vibration) feedback to its user. Therefore, the band can serve as a warning signal against dangerous situations for a deaf person.

Magic Flip – An IUST Innovation for specially-abled

Science and society have always been inseparable. Like in other parts of the world, scientists in Kashmir too are trying their best to benefit society. At Islamic University of Science and

Technology (IUST), Awantipora, budding scientists have been exploring innovative ideas so to bring some respite to differently-abled people.

IUST’s Design Innovation Centre (DIC) is currently working on several projects as part of the varsity’s social responsibility. DIC is an MHRD project that was introduced in IUST in 2015 under the National Initiative for Design Innovation (NIDI), which involves setting up of DICs throughout the country. It was converted into a full-fledged centre of the university in 2018.

“We aim at making technology directly beneficial for the people as well as low cost,” opines Dr Shahkar Ahmad Nahvi, Senior Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, and Coordinator, DIC, IUST.

Experts at the IUST working on the frugal ventilator. Pic: IUST

Dean, School of Engineering and Technology, IUST, Prof Ayaz Hassan Moon, say, various engineering departments of the university focus on tackling the issues that concern society.

“Apart from achieving excellence in academics, IUST as a whole, and School of Technology in particular, is taking up some lively projects that are much relevant for the society,” says

Prof Moon, adding, that currently, the university has taken up more than 40 projects, which are funded by the university as well as some external agencies.

Into Innovation

Some of the projects that focus on differently-abled people include SAAHI (Situational Awareness and Alarming System for the Hearing Impaired), Magic Flip, Hapkid and so on. The DIC has already filed a patent for these projects. It has also applied for design registration of Magic Flip at the Indian Patent Office.

SAAHI is a wearable band that picks up sounds of high intensity in its vicinity and gives vibrotactile (vibration) feedback to its user. Therefore, the band can serve as a warning signal against dangerous situations for a deaf person.

“The basic idea is to help the special people identify the threatening sounds, which would be different in Kashmir than in other places,” divulges Dr Nahvi. “For instance, you will not have the sound of ammunition everywhere in the world.”

He adds that SAAHI is going to be the first of its kind product in Kashmir. “Even if it may be done somewhere else outside, we are trying to reduce its cost—which shall be less than Rs 1,000 per band—as well as customise it to the local issues,” he says.

A Special Device

DIC has been working on the project for the past two years, and the prototype is ready. “We are right now in the process of making multiple copies of the product. Most of the things we require need to be procured from the outside, the process of which, however, got derailed due to back-to-back lockdowns,” says Dr Nahvi. “Once we have 10 copies ready, we will distribute them among the specially-abled students and seek the feedback to see if their problem is solved,” he adds.

The idea of SAAHI had come from some B Tech students, namely Aadil, Danish, Suhail and Waqar, who were then funded by the university. In 2016, the DIC team visited the Zaiba Aapa School of Inclusive Education—a school for specially-abled students—to assess the problems faced by them. After interacting with the students and their teachers, the team observed that completely deaf people cannot use hearing aids, and hence are oblivious to what is happening in their vicinity.

“We felt that this is a grave concern as it poses a threat to them in case of an imminent danger, which, obviously, they can’t ascertain unless they see, for instance, honking of vehicles while crossing a road, walking in a construction site, dogs barking at them, etc,” says Er Peerzada Shoaib, Assistant Professor, Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering, IUST, and former Design Fellow, DIC.

The Brain Storming

The DIC team after a brainstorming session with all the stakeholders came up with a solution to develop a wearable device, which could sense environmental sounds of variable loudness, and provide vibrotactile feedback to the user. The team further selected a group of recent graduates, who started working on the development of a wearable device, and this way, the idea of SAAHI was born. The team then designed one band and got it tested in Zaiba Aapa School and another school for specially-abled in Bemina, Srinagar, and received a tremendous response from the students.

DIC is currently testing the feasibility of improving the band performance using machine learning algorithms. “We now aim at making it better technically and add more features to it that can help a person understand from which direction sound is coming and what kind of sound it is,” says Shoaib.

Magic Flip

Another interesting device, Magic Flip, is an automatic page flipping mechanism for neck-down disabled people, for whom it is nearly impossible to turn the pages of a book. This device can flip pages based on the command that it gets by pressing the buttons, thus enabling a user to read books. Magic Flip comes with a motor with a small extension, which works on a person’s instructions. It presses against the page, lifts it and then turns it. The device consists of a stand as well.

“The idea struck my mind when a friend of mine got neck-down paralysed after an accident and could not do any movement beyond moving his head right and left. He wanted to read some books, however, nobody, of course, would stay with him for long to flip the book pages. So I thought why not to come to the rescue of such people,” recollects Dr Nahvi, adding that then he passed on this idea to a group of four students for a project.

DIC has so far applied for the design registration of the second prototype of the magic flip. Patent for the second prototype has been applied for, which is in progress. “In the latest development on the product as of today, work is being carried out on the third prototype of magic flip, adding more features like voice-activated control for book page flipping, mechanical and hardware improvements for smooth page flipping of books,” says Jawaaz Ahmad, Design Fellow, DIC.

Innovations For Commoners

Murtaza Shabir, one of the Electrical Engineering students currently working on the project, says, it is a routine affair for them to make innovations for common people. “But now we are trying to focus on a particular segment of the society, which otherwise is being ignored—that is physically challenged people,” he emphasises. “If we are able to utilise our engineering skills in this direction, it would serve a larger purpose.”

Another student, Madiha Muzaffar, says, currently the device works on right and left buttons, “but for future we are trying to make it a voice-recognised device, which means, as the user will utter right or left, the page will turn accordingly.” So far, the preliminary prototype is complete.

The team now plans to customise the device for both English and Urdu languages, and for different sizes of books. “We have to make it simpler for the users so as to minimise their dependence others,” says Shabir.

The Hapkid

Another innovation, Hapkid, is a short form of Haptics for kids. Haptics is the science, which deals with the sense of touch and haptic interfaces attempt to replicate or enhance the touch experience of manipulating or perceiving a real environment through mechatronic devices.

Hapkid is an assistive haptic device aimed at the refinement of motor skills in children and other sufferers of stroke. Robot-assisted training has a great potential for the restoration of motor skills in people, who are not able to write following the stroke.

Dr Rabia Noor

“Through Hapkid, we are trying to make special children learn how to write. It works just like parents teach writing to their normal kids by holding their hands,” says Dr Nahvi. “A pencil is connected with the computer system, through which a child gets feedback so that his or her hand works in a proper direction. After a period of time, a child is able to write himself,” he explains.

Robotic training has the advantage of being highly accurate. It can be sustained for very long periods of time, can measure progress automatically and can produce a wide range of forces or motion.

“The transformation all these projects have brought in our students is amazing. The thing that they are confident enough to identify and tackle real-world problems is what gives us satisfaction,” notes Dr Nahvi. “The basic trait that gets built in the students helps a lot in their character building.”

(The author is an Assistant Professor at the IUST, Awantipore’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication. The write-up was published in the university’s in-house publication Echo)

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