When was the last time you had a decent conversation with Siri? He either doesn’t get your pronunciation or the Sri Lankan English peppered with Sinhala or Tamil. But the local Orasi system based on the international braille alphabet with happy and sad emojis is a whole new ballgame that promises to herald in the next generation of accessibility services.
Aptly christened Orasi (Greek for ‘sight’), this new system developed by Isuru Sampath Kariyawasam is a mobile phone accessory device for easy mobile use by visually handicapped. The device with the aid of an app is capable of reading out text messages and describing photographs. The software can be installed in any basic android mobile phone and the device with a braille display can be plugged into any phone with USB OTG (On the Go) support. Communication with the phone takes place via the device through braille. Isuru informs that he had not developed the system for iOS devices as it involves a tedious licensing procedure.
“If the people in the photograph are in an already existing database the device will tell you who’s in the photograph. You can even take a photograph of a book and the device reads out the text in the picture,” explains Isuru.
Isuru is currently in the process of developing a special edition for people with both hearing and visual impairments. “In this version, the output method is vibration.” The phone can communicate information to the visual and hearing impaired person through a series of vibrations felt through the device. Orasi 2.0 for the visually impaired will be available for preorder within two months. Iusru is hoping to make available the special edition for hearing and visually impaired in December 2017.
Isuru from Habarakada, Homagama sat for his ALs at DS Senanayake in 2013. He is currently a second year student of software engineering at the Informatics Institute of Technology. He started his own company, Enif Labs, which specializes in software, website development and IoT (Internet of Things) and embedded solutions six months ago and hopes to turn it into the best in the business.
Isuru has previously developed ‘Duthaya’, a system that automatically sends information such as last speed, location and number of passengers of a vehicle, to the police, emergency services and hospitals, when the vehicle meets with an accident. It won the second place in the ITI ‘Cutting Edge’ Competition 2016.
It first crossed Isuru’s mind that such a device could benefit the visually impaired when he saw one of his relatives struggling with a phone developed for a seeing person. His relative Samatha lost his vision while still in the prime of his youth, due to an accident. “It was not meant as an invention,” admits Isuru. “It just a way of reintegrating him into society.”
Most inventions stop at prototype level, says Isuru. “I wanted to take it a step further by creating a feasible solution.” Isuru’s visually impaired relative Samatha and a few others have been entrusted with test devices to pickup any bugs in the system with the hopes of further improving the system. Isuru is currently in the process of adding new features based on these user analytics. His intention is to make the system as user-friendly as possible.
Isuru burned midnight oil for six months sleeping at 3 am and waking again at five or 6 am some days, while he was developing the Orasi N the predecessor and Orasi 2.0 systems. Orasi 2.0 is now market ready, but Isuru has to wait two years for the patent.
It took Isuru three months to develop Orasi N. He had help from Janak Amarasena and Raveen Sachnda Atapaththu. Isuru also thanks his lecturers at the Informatics Institute of Technology Gruhanathan Poravi and Prasanna Pathmanathan for their guidance and his parents for all their support. This initial version of the system, Orasi N, got him under top 12 of Disrupt 2.0 Future X challenge 2016. His invention also came in the last five of Asia SS12, 2016. It took him another three months to improve the system into Orasi 2.0, which secured the first place in ITI Hack challenge 2017 and second place in Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards (GSEA).
It differs from Cortana, Siri, Google Assistant and other personal assistants in that it preserves one’s privacy. “If you are visually handicapped and are forced to dictate a text message, your privacy is lost,” explains Isuru. Moreover, Isuru explains that Orasi is ‘Singlish’ friendly. He pointed out that other virtual assistants can only process one language at a time. “For example, if you say ‘Hello’ and ‘Pronto’ in the same sentence or say something like ‘Hello machang’, other virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant will get confused.”
Isuru explains that no AI (Artificial Intelligence) has the multitude of functionalities that Orasi offers. Orasi has 18 functionalities, such as the describing functionality that can identify and describe photographs; Optical Character recognition that enables the device to read text and translation functionality that facilitates translation and reading out of text documents. In addition all settings are available in both Sinhala and English.
For more information on the Orasi system contact Isuru on 0763633316 or visit www.project.orasi.com.
Isuru is currently in the process of developing a special edition for people with both hearing and visual impairments. In this version, the output method is vibration. The phone can communicate information to the visual and hearing impaired person through a series of vibrations felt through the device. Orasi 2.0 for the visually impaired will be available for preorder within two months. Iusru is hoping to make available the special edition for hearing and visually impaired in December 2017