Thanks to a young Hungarian engineer’s innovative idea (deemed GlovEye), the blind and visually impaired will be able to read printed text by using a Smartphone app that transforms text into Braille.
Hungary Today spoke with Ábel Csathó, the team’s project manager, about the prospects of the ground-breaking invention.
What exactly inspired the invention?
One of our former team members, an engineer, was riding a tram when he saw a blind man in the crowd struggling with a callback application that reads written text aloud. One of the biggest problems with that application is that it fully occupies the user’s most important organ, the ear. After seeing this, he and another engineer began thinking of a solution using Braille. This led to the concept behind GlovEye.
Ábel Csathó. Image by Péter Csákvári/ Hungary Today
Many Startups end up generating quite a lot of money. Was money a big motivator for you?
No, and I don’t think money should ever be a primary motivator. The main issue and technical challenge were the drivers. We were given the opportunity to enter the Microsoft Imagine Cup, which served as a vital milestone in the device’s completion. Our team won the domestic round and, as a result, had the opportunity to compete in the World Final in Seattle.
How does it work? Using GlovEye’s Smartphone app, users can scan the printed text of their desire. The app even sends an alert if the user has accidentally left out some of the text while scanning. The device then projects the text as Braille, which the user can read using the tip of their index finger.
At the moment, how many people are in the team?
Three to four, in total. However, at this stage, only two of us are active.
Where did you find people to help you test the device?
Actually, the Hungarian Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted (MVGYOSZ) helped us in this stage.
Image by Péter Csákvári/ Hungary Today
How did they react when they had a successful experience using GlovEye?
Very positively; someone was able to read a newspaper for the first time and another immediately began reading Harry Potter.
Did anyone mention a book they are excited to read that isn’t currently available in Braille?
Usually, the problem is not the absence of translations. The issue is that the price of a book in Braille is typically far higher than that of a normal book.
Where did you develop GlovEye? Did you have any financial support in this phase?
We started developing the app at home. Then, prior to the Imagine Cup, a start-up incubator provided an office for us. During the development, everything – including the testing – came out of our own pockets.
The team presents the first reader available to the public, the Hungarian Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted (MVGYOSZ) and the library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA). Image by Benedek Varga/ GlovEye
What was the biggest difficulty you faced during development?
Fortunately, we had no deadlocks. However, since everyone is young, ambitious and busy, we experienced high turnover. Thankfully, other than that, we didn’t have any major issues. We have always been lucky when it comes to replacing those who’ve left.
Are you finished with development?
Not at all. We plan to make it even smaller so that eventually the device will be no larger than a computer mouse. In addition, it will use a battery, which means even fewer accessories. However, this won’t require too much work. Instead, we’re focused on finding an investor.
Is GlovEye suitable for digital texts as well?
We plan to add this feature later.
The glove is not required; it’s only there because of the name. Image by Gloveye
Have you had any rivals during the development phase?
There are obviously competitors, but we have to focus on ourselves first and foremost. There have been many attempts, but each one has had a different problem.
For example, one wasn’t able to eliminate the line-cut issue. We managed to solve this by using the software because it reads and recognizes the text. Therefore, the roller doesn’t need to be on the text. Also, a Spanish startup was only able to read digital files, not printed ones.
Have you already begun manufacturing?
Currently, we are not producing. We only have a few samples. At the moment, we are looking for an investor. This is the most difficult part, or at least it’s harder than we expected.
How much money would you need?
I can’t say a specific amount, but we would need an investment of over Huf 100 million (€ 315,000) to begin manufacturing.
Image by Péter Csákvári/ Hungary Today
If you found an investor, how long would it be before the device is available to the public?
About half a year.
How much would the device cost?
According to our calculations, its price would be around Huf 100,000 (€ 315). This is quite good considering a new Braille display costs around Huf 800,000 (€ 2,520).
If you find an investor, will you sell the invention or stay involved?
This depends on the situation and the offer, but of course, we can’t rule out either possibility.
Are you planning on entering any more competitions in the future?
As competitions usually take a lot of time and energy, they’re not a priority of ours right now. But, if we found a good opportunity, we wouldn’t rule it out.
Is it true that only a small fraction of those who are blind and visually impaired can read Braille?
Unlike voice-based solutions, using Braille stimulates the brain just as much as reading with the eyes. As a result, scholars and experts highly recommend learning and using it. As far as I know, though, only ten percent can read Braille. GlovEye can also be used to learn Braille, allowing anyone to experience the joy of reading.
featured image by GlovEye