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How visual recognition and IoT based detection can help the visually impaired

The first Indian startup among 10 global startups to be incubated under the Ma’an Social Incubator Program by Abu Dhabi Government last year, Nandu Jith, Founder and CEO, Nexart TechnoSolutions, speaks about the innovative technology of ‘Eyewey’, an affordable visual recognition and detection technology for helping people with complete visual impairment. It is a combination of wearable glove technology and a mobile application

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What are your key tech solutions for the visually impaired?

Nandu Jith, Founder and CEO, Nexart TechnoSolutions

We, at Nexart have developed ‘Eyewey’, an affordable visual recognition and detection technology for helping people with complete visual impairment. The concept of Eyewey, which was first named “Ioptyc” came about while our work on image recognition. It is an assistive technology which primarily uses visual recognition to help the visually impaired navigate and understand the world around them. It is also an affordable solution with a rigid design that works on a combination of visual AI and IoT based distance measurements.

In September of 2019, we had the opportunity to showcase our concept in Abu Dhabi, where the government is offering considerable support and incentives to entrepreneurs and startups as part of its economic diversification, and efforts to build a tech-enabled future. In our case, we received support from Ma’an – the Authority for Social Contribution, which forms part of the Department of Community Development. Ma’an’s Social Incubator Program helps support entrepreneurs and start-ups who are focused on social, cultural, or environmental issues, so it was a great fit. We became the first Indian startup among 10 global startups to be incubated under the Ma’an Incubator. This greatly fuelled our desire to innovate more on Eyewey and they have supported us to be able to accelerate from concept to an MVP stage within the first four months of incubation.

How are you using IoT based detection to help the visually challenged perceive the world around them?
Eyewey utilises a combination of visual recognition technology and distance measuring sensors to help people with complete visual impairment to navigate and understand the world around them. It is an affordable solution with a rigid design that works on a combination of visual AI and IoT based distance measurements. The core component of Eyewey is the Eyewey Mobile App which utilises the power for visual recognition to recognise objects and notifies the user about the object over the headphones. Eyewey uses its own unique Visual AI framework developed under Nexart allowing it to recognise a much wider range of objects, understand and learn scenarios through deep learning, read text and also recognise as well as respond to speech. Since it is equally important for the user to also feel these objects we have developed the Eyewey Glove. The Eyewey Glove comprises IoT sensors to measure distances on each axis and notify the user through vibrations produced by vibration motors placed at different points on the user’s hands. The sensors are capable of detecting up to 2m and the intensity of vibrations vary with distance of the object from the user thereby giving the user a feel of the distance of the object from the person wearing the glove. The glove acts as an added support for the working of the Eyewey App helping the user to understand and feel what is around them.

Your focus on tech innovation.
We seek to inspire by showcasing creative solutions to tough challenges as we believe that creativity goes hand-in-hand in developing innovation. We have always strived to move away from development of platforms or solutions focused on any one particular domain and focus on development of products that bridge the gap between such domains. It is hard to develop the blueprint for such products or validate the concepts but we find that most of the current successful business models exhibit such concepts that tackle the gaps between different domain and it is possible for small startups such as ourselves to join the same league, if we start experimenting with creative concepts rather than following repetitive concepts.

Your strategic plans for the future, e.g. new tech products and entering new markets?
We have a beta-launch of Eyewey and follow it up with the marketing strategies designed for Eyewey. We are also working to optimise our new Visual AI framework for Eyewey as it can also be implemented into other sectors such as construction, farming, waste management, robotics etc. with minimal change.

We are also working on our financial technology product named Hyloca which is a hyper local order management and networking platform along with an online project collaboration platform for artists named LiteBox to be launched by the end of 2020.

We are also currently undergoing the process of registration as a tech-startup under Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) with the support of Ma’an Social Incubator. Basing ourselves in Abu Dhabi has enabled us to take advantage of its fantastic global connectivity – centrally located between Asia, Africa and Europe – and its flexible business environment, which welcomes start-ups that are proposing innovative solutions to global challenges.

How have Indian startups leveraged global opportunities during the pandemic?
With an increasing push towards digitisation, several developed economies are enabling overseas tech start-ups in their region by easing constraints. Abu Dhabi is one of the most notable among them as it offers unparalleled opportunities in the MENA region to early-stage start-ups from around the world. Abu Dhabi’s Hub71 is a unique global tech ecosystem that offers a platform for technology companies to scale with a favourable business environment and access to both capital and global markets.

Your key achievements since inception?
After bootstrapping ourselves to developing our own products from 2019, we were recognised as one among the first ten social enterprises to be incubated in Abu Dhabi in September of 2019. Gaining a place on the Ma’an Social Incubator Programme has been pivotal in helping us to propel our growth. As part of the Social Incubator Programme, we were given funding, a stipend, training, and networking opportunities. We were also honoured to receive mentorship from the Zayed Higher Organisation, which works with people with People of Determination in Abu Dhabi, and the Emirates Association for the Blind, who further guided us on improving our product.

We were also able to raise nearly 200,000 AED as Pre-Seed Funding through Ma’an – Authority of Social Contribution under Govt. of Abu Dhabi to move from concept to an MVP of Eyewey.

We have been able to create a unique framework for Eyewey by combining Image Recognition and Deep-Learning to generate Visual AI allowing the app to learn for itself

Apart from Eyewey, we were also nominated as one of the top ten startups globally in June 2020 in the CovHack Challenge held in Dubai by Stratecis in conjunction with United Nations and Govt. of Dubai for our financial technology prototype named Hyloca.

Any other significant factor.
We are working up to the beta-launch of Eyewey mobile app into the market. We currently have 20 people with complete visual impairment from Abu Dhabi and India helping us to better our solution along the way. We have been fortunate to have the support of Ma’an and other organisations from Abu Dhabi and India helping us in our journey from MVP to prototype of Eyewey.

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