Technology April 21, 2022
Spacefelt: a smartphone & QR code-based innovation that helps label, scan and identify things around
Assistive Technology has surely advanced in the last decade, even in developing countries. The access of smartphones and computers through screen readers and magnifiers has opened a whole new world to persons with visual impairment.
However, many of them still find it challenging to perform their day-to-day tasks with ease, such as identifying the colours of clothes, sorting documents and certificates, identifying kitchen items, identifying medicines, etc. Therefore, often they are forced to seek assistance from sighted persons, which severely limits their independence in daily living.
While there are a few AI-based apps that help with identifying common objects, they often give generic descriptions with unreliable accuracy. Besides these, other solutions such as Braille labels and RFID/NFC based labelling devices have their limitations as well. In India, only 1% of persons with visual impairment have Braille literacy, and the RFID/NFC based devices are not affordable for many.
To tackle these challenges, a startup called Grailmaker Innovations has come up with Spacefelt. It is a smartphone and QR code-based innovation that helps users with visual impairment to easily label, scan, and identify things around. After over a year of development, the Beta version of the Spacefelt Android app has been launched on Google Play. This app can be used along with the Spacefelt tags which come in the form of a booklet containing 108 waterproof stickers (each about a square inch).
So how does this work?
- First the user peels a tag from the booklet and glues it to the object that needs to be identified later
- Then using the app, the user scans the glued tag by pointing the camera towards it
- Once the tag is recognized by the app, maybe with a sighted person’s help, the user records an audio description of what the object is
- Hereon, whenever the user scans the tag again, it plays back the recorded audio and helps identify the object without depending on others again
- If needed, the tags can be re-recorded any number of times and the data can be backed up to the cloud
Besides voice recording, there is also an option for the users to type text descriptions, which can be later read through screen readers. Further, other than the regular stickers, the Spacefelt tags also come in wash-proof textile material. These textile tags can be stitched to the clothes.
Spacefelt not only benefits persons with visual impairment but also the elderly persons with poor eyesight to identify their medication and prescription. It also helps people with Alzheimer’s to recollect photographs and create reminder notes.
But the use of Spacefelt goes much beyond labelling personal belongings! It also addresses another major challenge that people with visual impairment face, that is, accessing public places independently. For instance, many of them face difficulties while navigating around government offices or public washrooms, reading a menu card in a restaurant, understanding diagrams and maps in schools, etc. All these can be made simple by using the public version of Spacefelt, which is currently being piloted at L V Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad.
Soon, any public institution would be able to make its place accessible with the help of Spacefelt’s accessibility experts, who will first study the layout of the place and set the tags in the appropriate spots like doors, signages, elevators, etc. They will then record a clear and comprehensive description of these places to the app. Later, any visually impaired user who visits these places can use the Spacefelt app to scan these tags and get oriented with the layout.
To know more about Spacefelt visit – https://spacefelt.com/
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