Student innovators from Scottish colleges and universities will be presented with a unique challenge this Thursday and Friday – design solutions to some of the problems faced by blind and partially sighted people.
They will take part in the TechShare Europe conference in Glasgow, held by the charity RNIB Scotland to explore how new technology can transform the aids and adaptations that people with sight loss use for everyday living.
After sitting in on sessions and mingling with attendees, teams of students will develop ideas and make a short pitch of their solutions at the close of the two-day conference.
The exercise is being organised by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE), which helps students develop enterprise skills, discover their entrepreneurial talent and start up their own ventures.
Ann Davidson, SIE Enterprise Programme Director, said:
“We are very excited about this challenge, which will bring together students from a number of different disciplines. All of the teams will receive support from our business advisors and RNIB.
“The emphasis will be on technical solutions, not just apps. We expect to see innovations in areas like wearable technology, for example. We are giving the students space to be creative, to understand their customers, and come up with something that is really desirable.”
By the end of the conference, held in the Glasgow Science Centre, each team will be expected to produce a rough prototype that will have a life beyond the event with a clear idea of what problem it is solving and why it is worthy of further exploration and support.
“There will be a clear framework that we will guide them through to get them to that position and give them the motivation to take their idea forward,” said Ann. “Innovation and industry experts will be on hand to mentor and coach them through the process.”
RNIB Scotland director John Legg said modern technology has the potential to revolutionise the independence of people with low or no vision.”We want to ensure that the Digital Age opens up the same exciting possibilities for visually impaired people as it does for the sighted population,”he said. “That’s why this student challenge is very exciting.”
Among the devices to be showcased at the conference are ‘smart’ ‘shoes with vibrating sensors that guide the wearer,glasses that maximise residual vision, and an audio-bracelet that enhances spatial awareness. Speakers from technology giants Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft will also discuss enhancing the accessibility of their products and meet with the student teams.
Around 188,000 people in Scotland are blind or have significant sight loss; around two million across the UK. At least 280 million people worldwide are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind.
Students from the following institutions will be participating in the SIE lab within the main event:
- Edinburgh Napier University
- Glasgow School of Art
- Glasgow Caledonian University
- The University of Glasgow
- The University of Strathclyde
- The University of the West of Scotland
- Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design
- Edinburgh College
- West College Scotland