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Mumbai students develop robots to improve lives of the blind, elderly

Thu, 07/19/2012 - 15:45 -- admin

Imagine a robotic walker that can tell exactly how much and where your grandmother has walked on a particular day.

Or better still, imagine a game of air hockey that can be played even by blind people. City students have built robots that will improve the lives of the elderly and the visually impaired.

A group of students from international schools in the city have developed robots as part of the Sixth Indian Robotic Olympiad - Mumbai Chapter.

A group of 14-year-old students bagged the first prize in the open category.

Hemani Kalucha from Dhriubhai Ambani International School at Bandra-Kurla Complex, Arvind Ranganathan, and Nikeet Dharia fromEcole Mondiale, Juhu They built 'X Sight', a robotic air hockey game for the visually impaired. "Blind people do not have many recreational options. So we decided to take air hockey, a popular game easily available in shopping malls, and adopt it so that even the blind can play it," said Kalucha.

Within four months, the students customised the air hockey board, dividing into 12 zones, and the striker or the puck was installed with colour sensors.

Each colour represents a value that the puck is able to read. It sends the information via Bluetooth to a plotter or tracker, which is a glove fitted with sensors that the visually impaired can wear on their left hand. This plotter vibrates enabling them to sense the position of the puck. The students have built a robotic arm that can be attached to the board. The arm helps in playing defence, as it can stop the puck by sensing its movement. "One unique feature is that the blind will have to rely on tactile instead of sound," she said.

The students tested their robotic game at the Happy Home for Blind and National Association for Blind at Worli.

A group of 12-year-olds -- Rushabh Kenny (Podar International School, Santacruz), Raghav Ringshia (Utpal Sanghvi School, Juhu) and Shikhar Bakhda, from Jamnabai Narsee School, Juhu, bagged the second position (open category), with their ‘Mr Boon Walk’ robot, an interactive walker for elderly.

They got idea for the walker when they saw Shikhar's grandmother, suffering from degeneration of bones, was not regular in her exercises after a knee replacement surgery. ''We noticed that senior citizens often do not stick to exercise routine. Our walker helps families to keep a check on them,'' said Kenny.

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