A headband that can move objects without touch. A pair of glasses that can narrate the world without sight. This futuristic technology may sound like something from a science fantasy movie, but it’s now becoming a reality thanks to University of Missouri-KC students like Gharib Gharibi.
“DeepLens is a technology to help blind people do their basic, daily life activities,” said Gharibi. “For example; finding a specific product, reading a menu at a restaurant, or finding the nearest bathroom.”
The device is a wearable camera that blind people can attach to a hat or glasses. It works by observing the user’s environment and narrating their surroundings to them through an earpiece.
Gharib Gharibi is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Computing and Engineering. His team is joined by fellow Ph.D. student, Saria Goudarzvand, and brother, Mohamed Gharibi. Together, they worked to create a project called DeepLens.
Gharibi was inspired to create the device by a blind high school friend in Saudi Arabia. Goudarzvand’s grandmother was also visually impaired. The two bonded over their desire to bring the visually impaired a better sense of independence and mobility.
“For example, there are two cans in front of him, and he can’t choose which one’s the Coke and which ones the Sprite,” said Gharibi on his high school friend. “For someone who’s blind, who’s an adult and very smart, they still face difficulties in simple tasks, and they can become mad at themselves.”
The team began working on DeepLens as a side project in November, but it quickly became a focus after the team made it to the UM System Entrepreneur Quest Student Accelerator’s finals. Finalists received funding to produce a prototype that they will present at the next summit in April. Now that Gharibi’s team has received the funding, they expect to have a prototype finished as early as March. They estimate the device could be on the market as soon as 2020.
Gharibi and his team are working on perfecting the innovative deep-learning technology their device depends. “Deep-learning is a simulation to human learning,” said Gharbi. “We are trying to mimic how the brain works in code and computers.”
The team is grateful for their success and the university’s support. “I think it’s important to credit the great efforts that the Bloch School of Business is doing to encourage students to do these projects on the side and providing the funds,” said Gharbi. “This is something that could really help other students do something and generate their first prototype or product, too.”