He started at age 12.
For six years, 18-year-old Alex Deans has been working hard on the iAid, his invention to help the visually impaired navigate the world around them. According to Deans, the idea came at the age of 12 when he was helping a blind woman cross the street. “She told me that all existing devices only let users see in one direction so they can’t know what’s going on around them.”
The iAid blends GPS and ultrasonic technology to help visually-impaired people safely walk to wherever they like. It works by emitting sound waves that bounce off objects in the user’s environment to show how close the objects are to them. It’s the combination of a whale’s sonar and the technology used in cars to alert drivers when they’re about to back into something. According to Deans, “Guide canes tell you what’s in front of you, but they don’t help you figure out where you are in relation to your destination.” The iAid includes a joystick that rotates and points the user in the direction of their destination.
It took three years for Deans to create his first prototype and once it was ready he brought it to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. At the institute, visually-impaired people got to try the device and after hearing their feedback, Deans would then create an updated version of the device. “When I saw the reaction from people using the device,” Deans said, “it motivated me to continue doing it.”
Within the next two months, Deans should be approved for his U.S. and Canadian patents for the iAid making it one step closer to being available to people everywhere. Deans hopes the device will sell for between $50-70 if he can lower the costs of materials.
Here’s Alex Dean’s submission for the 2014 Google Science Fair.