Abdelrazek Aly and his team, finalists in the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy’s (SC) flagship innovation programme Challenge 22, have big plans for their invention.
For the team now known as Bonocle, a journey that could be set to revolutionise digital media consumption for visually impaired people began in unfortunate circumstances. With the Challenge 22 finals all set to take place in Doha, its inventors are dreaming big and only looking ahead, according to a report on sc.qa
The team is made up of four friends, three of whom have known each other since childhood – with the fourth coming into the group when they met at Qatar University (QU). But it was one man’s misfortune that led to the creation of Bonocle, named through a play on words between ‘braille’ and
Abdelrazek, a 23-year-old QU graduate, was midway through a computer science degree when he was involved in a car accident. Unable to write during his exams due to a fractured right hand, he had to rely on the special services offered by the university. It was there that he discovered what he saw as a gap in the market, but more importantly to him, an unsolved problem.
“While I was there I got to interact with a lot of visually impaired students within the university,” he explained. “I found out how they were using existing technology to get access to the information they needed – and what was available to them was not good.
“They had to rely on other students volunteering to write down the assignments they had, and to then print it out in braille. This applied to every single paper they got and for every single worksheet. I thought there has to be a better way to do this – so that’s where it all started.
“There was a clear need for a solution, so we got together and started to think about it – and eventually Bonocle was born.”
After investigating multiple avenues, including specialist tablet production, the team set about working on something truly innovative.
“We decided creating a new tablet would be like reinventing the wheel,” Abdelrazek’s teammate Mahmoud Eltouny added. “This helped us form our vision even more strongly – we wanted to create something that would integrate with what we use on a daily basis, rather than having some special devices.
“We decided to focus on using a platform that already exists, one that everybody is familiar with, such as phones and tablets.”
Fast-forward three years and – with Abdelrazek as CEO and co-founder – Bonocle is up and running. Working alongside his three close friends – Mahmoud, Ramy Abdulzaher and Kariem Fahmi – he is now focused on improving braille opportunities for all visually impaired people, in an increasingly digitalised world.
Their product is a handheld glove that mimics the shape of any letter that is displayed on a screen upon touching it, thus allowing them access to all digital content that is currently available in any language. The team is also planning to integrate Bonocle with optical character recognition technology in order to read standard print, newspapers or magazines - thus turning all published words into braille.
“The goal is to have Bonocle available to every single visually impaired person in the world,” he continued. “It’s not only about using it on your devices, but is also about using it to get integrated into your city. Going to restaurants and reading menus, for example. And all kinds of other daily things that people take for granted every day.”
Regarding the competition that is allowing them the platform to progress their idea, the team is full of praise for the opportunities being provided to them.
“Challenge 22 provides a very good opportunity to get Bonocle into Qatar, to make it fully accessible to everyone,” he added. The 2017 Challenge 22 finals take place in Doha from today until November 20.
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