Published: January 25, 2020 12:23:31 am
In 2016, Anang Tadar was travelling by a tempo in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, sitting next to a woman who was wearing dark glasses on the peak summer afternoon. Tadar was, at the time, a Class XI student with a fondness for tinkering and manufacturing electronic gadgets. “I did not notice she was blind until she asked if we had reached a certain place. I turned and told her that we haven’t reached yet,” said Tadar. He had some conversation with the blind woman and came to know she lost her vision a few years back. After a while, the woman got off and Tadar watched her negotiating the road, thinking, “How does it feel to be blind?”
He began to research and came across bats and the concept of echolocation, in which the bat uses ultrasonic waves emitted from their mouth to navigate their surroundings. They rely on the echo from the objects and navigate their environment. He kept experimenting with electronic devices and sensors and finally made a prototype of a pair of goggles by the end of the year, by which a blind person could detect a nearby object while moving.
“I was imagining myself in the shoes of the blind. I would close my eyes and walk and see how they behave. I noticed that in every corner and step, there are obstacles. They may understand that a person or an animal is coming towards them by their sound, but what about electric poles or clothes lines. With walking sticks, the blind can gauge obstacles below the waist but remain vulnerable to obstacles such as branches that are above their waist. There are many things that can hurt them,” says Tadar, who is now studying civil engineering at CV Raman University in Chhattisgarh. The goggles he designed were for completely blind people, made so that they could navigate around their environment with ease and safety.
He exhibited his first prototype at the Regional Festival of Innovation organised by the Department of Science and Technology and National Innovation Foundation in Guwahati on February 2017 and emerged as the winner. Thereafter National Innovation Foundation helped Tadar with funding and support for developing more prototypes. He made several models after that and some of them were tested on blind people. “I received positive feedback as they said it was very helpful,” he says.
The latest iteration of the goggles was to be displayed at the recent Serendipity Arts Festival 2019 in Goa but could not reach after the protest in Assam disrupted train and plane services.
“I love to attend festivals and events because I can connect with people who are interested in working together,” he says. Presently, he is aiming to find cost-effective parts, so that the goggles can be worn by the blind from all walks of life.