The world has 285 million visually impaired people – of these, 39 million are blind, and the remaining have varying degrees of impaired vision. And as the world population grows, as will the numbers of visually impaired individuals. Lancet Global Health estimates that the number of blind people in the world is set to triple by 2050.
While in some cases, partial impairment can be treated or even prevented from escalating into complete blindness, the alternatives are far less optimistic for most individuals who are totally blind. But thanks to the advent and proliferation of technology, its not a dark road entirely for them. With the use of technologies such as IoT and AI, Gurugram-based startup TorchIt is lighting up lives of many.
Cofounders Hunny Bhagchandani and Mohit Chelani have taken it as a mission to empower the visually impaired community. Their product Saarthi helps the blind navigate across various environments – be it a closed room or a crowded road. The next version of Saarthi is AI-enabled to auto-sense the environment for obstacles. For instance, if a person is walking from his room to the lobby and then to an open area, the device would sense a new environment at every juncture and change the range setting to match for an effective navigation.
Users can toggle between three range sets – low (2 feet distance), medium (4 feet distance) and max (8 feet distance). Saarthi has a 99.7% accuracy level, and has been tested on more than 1,200 users. The device has gained accreditation from the National Association of Blind, and Blind People Association for being an innovative and impactful product. The device is being used by more than 8,000 visually impaired individuals in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Mumbai and New Delhi. Bhagchandani and Chelani hope to empower more than 1 million lives in the next two years.
Saarthi has won accolades across multiple platforms including being the Top 5 promising social start-ups awarded by PM Modi, Millennium Alliance Round 5 award – TDB, USAID & UK Govt., Social Acceleration awarded by IIM Ahmedabad and IIGP 2.0 winners.
Other Products In The Pipeline
While Saarthi is a hugely successful product, the team is already working on other products such as Jyoti and TakeNote. Jyoti has the essence of AI, ML & IoT at its core through the features like Offline Image Processing, Audio Video calling. There is also an SOS button, which will send a message to nearest blind school/institute and the police station to rescue a blind person in need. TakeNote is a product being developed in association with IIT Madras. It it being designed to be a simplistic and affordable device to take notes from anywhere and then have them transferred into any computing device for editing or publishing, providing a digital notebook to every blind person to safely store their notes and have them edited from connecting to any device.
CSR Project with HDFC Gruh Udyog & Oil India
TorchIt along with HDFC Gruh Udyog recently conducted a CSR Project in Bhopal for distribution of 1,000 of Saarthi devices to blind & visually impaired people there. Beyond that, they have also received a CSR Project collaboration with Oil India for distribution of 2,000 more of Saarthi devices. In addition, the team is engaged in discussions with Rajive Gulati, head of Hartron Multiskill Development Center, Startup Hub and CoE IoT Gurugram to carry out a pilot project in Haryana.
Torchit Goes To South Korea & Africa
Torchit was recently incorporated in South Korea with support from National IT Promotion Agency after being chosen as the one of the Top 40 startups in the Korea Startup Grand Challenge 2018. In addition, the company is collaborating with companies in the development area Dot Inc, one of the biggest manufacturer of smart watches for the blind in Korea.
During their recent visit to Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi, they have tied up with multiple organisations including Kenyan Society for the Blind, Hope Tech + and Safaricom. After meeting with key government officials, they are hopeful of taking the product to every corner of Africa.
TorchIt is being incubated out of the NASSCOM Center of Excellence IoT, Gurugram