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Speaking wearable device helps visually impaired identify colours

25 May 2017

A student from Nottingham Trent University has designed a wearable device that can help the visually impaired identify colours.

Koley device

Andrew Cowen, 23, built the device after being inspired by his grandma, who before recently passing away had been registered blind for over 40 years.

The device – named KOLEY - is worn on the wrist and can be pointed at objects to identify the colour of an item to the user by describing it aloud or through an optional earpiece.

Originally designed to help blind shoppers brighten up their wardrobe and select clothes when dressing, the device can also be used to tell the difference in fruit ripeness, recognise medication box colours and identify paints for blind artists.

The technology behind the device uses photodiode’s which detect red, green and blue colours, feeding information into a processor which matches it to a pre-programmed code that identifies and speaks the colour.

Through this technology, it can read different shades of colour allowing the device to tell if fruit and vegetables are ripe.

Andrew, who comes from Altrincham, Greater Manchester and studies BA (Hons) Product Design, designed the device as part of his final year degree project after seeking advice from visually impaired people at charity MySight.

He said: “The visually impaired often have bland wardrobes, and don’t have the opportunity to express themselves through the colour of their clothes. My grandma often wore bright clothes as they were more cheerful, but found it difficult to match colours correctly. She inspired me to use my degree research to design a useful solution to help her and others who have problems with their vision.

“I wanted to create something that has future potential to aid all visually impaired people, with further development I hope the device will be able to read text, making daily life easier and giving greater independence.”

The working prototype also has a unique near-field communication (NFC) chip, which allows the device to be used as a contactless payment device, making payment easier in shops and on public transport.

After graduating from university, Andrew will seek investment and support to scale down his larger device so that it is available in a size similar to a wristwatch. 

Future plans also include a platform which will allow the wearable to be induction charged, reducing the need to struggle with plug sockets.

James Dale, Principle Lecturer of Product Design at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Andrew’s product has the potential to make a big impact on the lives of the visually impaired. Using his own research and support from the course, he has seen the product through from design to prototyping, and with further development his design has a wealth of new possibilities.”

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