The Malaysia Star ( Malaysia).
Thursday, March 02, 2006.
How does a blind person find a public toilet when he needs to answer the call of nature? Actually, with a lot of difficulty unless somebody leads him to it.
Blind people also find it hard to locate bus stops, vending machines and buildings - efforts that come easily to those who can see.
For the hearing and speech-impaired, their difficulty is communicating with people who do not understand sign language.
Realising the plight of these disabled groups, students of the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia here have come with gadgets to help the disabled to move about with ease in public places.
YOUNG INVENTORS: (From left) Sin Loong, Boo, Bong and Poh Peng demonstrating how their device works in Johor Baru Thursday.
Four UTM students have invented a device they called View in Black (VIB) that enables the visually impaired user to know his location, such as crossroads, nearby landmarks and public amenities.
Team leader Bong Khong Lee explained that the device used the radio frequency identification (RFID) reader to guide the blind.
"RFID tags would be planted in the ground while the blind person would have his VIB device at his waist, which will have an RFID reader and a database processor.
"When he walks, the user retrieves data from the planted RFID tag, which provides basic information to help him, for instance, cross a road.
"The device, through earphones, will tell the user what road is behind or in front of him and the roads at both his sides.
"On top of that, the RFID tag will be able to give details of surrounding landmarks and facilities, such as vending machines and the nearest bus stop," he said.
Bong and teammates Boo Yan Jiong, Lee Sin Loong and Lee Poh Peng said they talked to many blind people before starting on their invention and found that the most important thing for the blind when they were in the streets was to locate the public toilet.
"This device will not only be able to help the blind but also help the Government save expenses on the current guiding blocks for the visually impaired," said Bong, whose team would be competing in the upcoming Philips Young Inventors' Challenge in Kuala Lumpur.
Another group, comprising Tan Ping Hua, Tan Zee Yean, Heap Yee Sim and Ricky Yap, has invented what they named Hello!- a micro-controller gadget and voice processing system to improve communication between hearing and speech impaired people and those who do not understand sign language.
"This system analyses and interprets finger movements and it then converts the movements to voice.
"For example, when the disabled person uses sign language to say "hello," the movement will be converted into audio and the person he is talking to will be able to understand what they are trying to say," said team leader Ping Hua.
He said with the device, the audio impaired could "speak" like a normal person and would be able to lead a more normal and independent life.
The two groups are among 15 others vying to be in the finals of the competition to nurture and groom young Malaysian inventors. Organised by Philips Malaysia Sdn Bhd, it will be held on March 14.
The teams that reach the finals will be given RM3,000 each to help them build and complete their prototypes, which must use the company's semiconductors and chips.
The winning team stands to receive RM10,000 in cash and a five-day, four-night educational trip abroad.
End of article.
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