Using technology for a social purpose is one way of changing lives. This idea has always accompanied young engineer Leoncio Huamán, who was recognized a few months ago by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as one of the 35 most innovative young people of 2019 thanks to his new project which promises to change the lives of people who are hearing impaired.
It is called Vision D: a special device which allows users to visualize in text form what the person they are interacting with is saying, without breaking visual contact with the speaker. It will also limit the use of sign language where possible. As such, the project facilitates the process of communication for people with hearing problems.
“A display that allows them to read everything the other person is saying. In other words, we are moving away from the sense of hearing that is impaired for people with this disability to focus on the sense of sight," Huamán explains.
A new alternative
This new creation has a tiny display that is attached to the lens of the user, this device projects all the words expressed by the speaker in real time thanks to IBM's Watson Speech to Text service. This tool allows a communication channel to be generated through a microprocessor and can be adapted to any type of glasses.
“In both my academic and professional life, I have participated in many working groups and workshops with a wide variety of talents. On some of these occasions I was struck by the difficulty that hearing-impaired participants had in maintaining the same level of interaction in conversations and presentations. That’s how I decided to create a tool that could help include these people so that their hearing difficulties don’t become an obstacle in their lives,” said the young engineer.
During the creation process, Huamán worked on the Vision D testing with the Association of Deaf Youth and Teenagers of Peru, which allowed him to gain a deeper understanding of their needs. In this way, the engineer realized that there are not many people who know sign language, something which often limited conversation and resulted in the loss of eye contact with the person with whom the communication was established. With this invention, that would no longer be a problem.
He also found that text messages were a popular channel of communication among the hearing-impaired community. In view of this, the device will also allow them to receive information from the person speaking through the aforementioned communication platform. Vision D is completely Open Source, a community of free software. As such, everybody who wears it will have the chance to suggest improvements to the device in order to optimize its performance.
César Campos, General Manager at IBM Peru, highlighted the merits of the project and was extremely happy to work alongside the young engineer. “We are proud to have Leoncio as part of the team. Leoncio is a talented young person who symbolizes the innovative and inclusive spirit that has thrived in our company for over 100 years. I cannot imagine a better use of technology than applying it to generate a social impact, which improves people's quality of life and paves the way for a more inclusive society.”
Leoncio Huamán’s work has also received praise from the Universidad Ricardo Palma. In fact, this innovative and ambitious invention was the winner of the Creatividad Electrónica URP 2018 ll competition, held by this university.
Sources: Andina/RPP/La República