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Students create mobile device for Imagine Cup competition

Engineering students Vish Ramachandran, Srinivas Vadrevu, Swami Venkataramani and Sriram ThaiyarImagine 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 (

Koldoff, with the Fulton School of Engineering, can be reached at (480) 965-0213 or (


Related Links:

Holding Hands Poject
College of Technology and Applied Sciences
Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering

























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