[Nfbmo] Toronto teen uses app to give visually-impaired a newlook at the world

nancy Lynn seabreeze.stl at gmail.com
Tue Nov 29 23:59:56 UTC 2016

I got this from another list and thought it would interest you.
Anmol Tukrel, a Grade 12 student at Holy Trinity who designed an app for
blind people that describes things you take photos of with your iPhone or
iPad. (Andrew
Francis Wallace / Toronto Star) |

A Toronto teen is hoping to change the lives of visually impaired people
around the world with a new app that can identify virtually any object with
quick tap of an iPhone or iPad.

Anmol Tukrel, a 17-year-old grade 12 student at Holy Trinity School in
Richmond Hill, has always been fascinated with technology, particularly
intelligence. By the time he was in grade 7, he was already teaching himself
how to code.

Growing up, Tukrel often travelled to Pune, India to visit his aunt who
worked at the K. K. Eye Institute, a hospital dedicated to providing eye
care for
people who can’t afford it. That experience, combined with an internship at
a startup that uses computer vision to make products for advertising firms,
led him to the perfect idea for a Canada-Wide Science Fair project.

“I thought I could use computer vision for a more humanitarian use, and help
visually impaired people,” he said.

Tukrel’s iPhone app, iDentifi, allows users to take a photo of virtually any
object, and then describes that item in great detail back to the user.
can also take photos of text and have it read back to them, in one of 27
languages. Tukrel hopes it makes every day tasks — like picking out the can
pop you want — easier for people who are visually impaired.

Jason Fayre, the head of accessibility and assistive technology at the
Canadian National Institute for the Blind,
tested out the app and, although there are similar apps on the market, gave
it a rave review.

“I’m extremely impressed, especially that it was written by a grade 12
person,” he said. As a blind person himself, Fayre said iDentifi would make
life in easier when trying to identify things in the kitchen.

“If I don’t know what a particular can of something is, being able to take a
picture and have that information read back to me in great detail is very
useful,” he said.

It took Tukrel more than a year to develop the app, a process that involved
months of painstaking research and enough code to fill a two-inch binder. He
had initially planned on making his own convolutional neural network —
computer speak for the data structure used to make the a program that
objects. Eventually, he opted to integrate existing programs.

Tukrel casually speaks about computer vision, convolutional neural networks,
and application program interfaces as though he were a university graduate
of computer science – not an about-to-graduate high schooler.

“I’ve always liked technology, but as much as I like playing video games and
using different apps, I wanted to be able to make them myself,” Tukrel said.

For Tukrel, the work doesn’t stop now that the science fair is over.

He has already met with various organizations to get feedback on the app,
and plans on making tweaks to improve the user experience. So far, the app
been downloaded by several thousand people and is being used in 60
countries. And, it’s free, something Tukrel doesn’t plan on changing.

“I want people who are visually impaired to use it without thinking of the
financial consequences of doing so,” he said. “We have such great technology
and I think it’s important that everyone has access to it.”


More information about the NFBMO mailing list