Imagine navigating your way through the Memorial Union during
the packed lunch hour or perhaps getting around a busy shopping
center. What could prove to be a difficult task for a sighted person
must be a seemingly impossible task for a visually impaired individual.
At least that belief is what propelled four students from the
Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering and the College of Technology
and Applied Sciences into action to create Holding Hands, a personal
mobile device that tells users what is in their environment and
how they can interact with it.
The device can be used in everyday navigational scenarios as well
as in functional scenarios such as finding a vending machine and
ordering a soda.
The technology helped earn the team made up of students Vish Ramachandran,
Srinivas Vadrevu, Swami Venkataramani and Sriram Thaiyar, a third
place overall finish in the national finals of Microsoft’s Imagine
Cup 2004 held May 23. The Imagine Cup is an international competition
to invent a product that affects lives through smart technology
and mobile devices. The ASU team earned $2,000 for their efforts.
Their invention also finished second in a regional competition
in Los Angeles.
The system is based on Radio Frequency Identification technology
that is used together with a PocketPC, running the Holding Hands
application. Smart features are included in the device, allowing
the system to identify and predict user action over time. This
results is a streamlined system able to ask the user about re-occurring
action, such as whether they would like a soda when they usually
obtain one, or alert the user to unusual action, such as taking
the wrong bus.
“Everybody has an area in their heart that wants to help
people in need,” says Venkataramani. “That’s why we
liked this project so much. It’s a nice feeling to know that Holding
Hands will serve an actual need in society, rather than just another
device for the general population that will promote laziness.”
“The students were highly focused and highly committed to
serving the needs of individuals who are blind,” says Dr.
Sethuraman Panchanathan, the team’s adviser and chair of the Department
of Computer Science and Engineering. “This technology has
potential for the community at large. It is just one facet of the
commitment that ASU shows toward enhancing the environment for
individuals with disabilities.”
Although the students missed the mark to attend the Imagine Cup
World Finals in Brazil, the team did learn valuable life lessons
during the development process of Holding Hands.
“This experience has been the most extraordinary in my life,” says
Ramachandran. “It has taught us all so many essential skills
that we will use for years to come.”
For more information about Holding Hands, visit (www.public.asu.edu/~vramach1/HoldingHands).
Koldoff, with the Fulton School of Engineering, can be reached
at (480) 965-0213 or (firstname.lastname@example.org).