The sixth sense for the blind
Posted on April 4, 2014
The inspiration behind creating Mubser came from wanting to help a close friend who lost his eyesight in an accident at the age of 15. Initially it wasn’t about creating a business, but rather trying to figure out a way to help him. Mubser is a wearable belt fully equipped with Bluetooth and Microsoft Kinect, that guides visually impaired individuals to navigate safely around objects and obstacles using a system of vibration motors.
Myself, and a team of three other computer engineering graduates came together to create two prototypes, which were immediately released in the market. We wanted to test the product in real life, so that we could get conclusive feedback to enhance the device. Part of this strategy was to gather real information from the consumer. It was pointless for us to spend hours developing something without even knowing if our users will appreciate the service. We also insisted on getting the prototype out there to ensure progress from our side. “Perfection is the killer of progress,” so if we spent all the time in our labs perfecting a product that was not tested, guess what … we would still be modifying Mubser.
We created a wearable device that uses RGB imaging and infrared depth data captured by a 3D depth camera to assist individuals to navigate around obstacles using a system of vibration motors. The device is also able to recognise staircases, doors and chairs and can name these objects to the wearer through a Bluetooth-connected headset.
We are still perfecting the prototypes. My vision is to add more features to the device so that blind individuals can accurately imagine all their surroundings. “It’s about the future for them; that’s how I keep thinking about the platform itself. So in the next five years I see Mubser as being the sixth sense that they depend on.”
I found that in combining technology and entrepreneurship we could help, not only my friend, but a world of the visually impaired. Once a project is a non-profit you constantly have to ask people – who most likely aren’t in need of the service – to support it. Whereas through entrepreneurship, you are able to find those in need of the service putting value to it and paying for it. With that said, being an African product, it was very important to us to ensure that regardless of the enhancements and product features, the product remains affordable – that it may benefit as many blind people as possible.
My piece of advice is to not waste time researching and perfecting a prototype that is yet to be tested in the market. If you have an idea, spend maximum three months looking into it, then create it. Once you have created it, get it out there. There is no better research your business achieve than having real feedback from real-life experiences with your product.
Don’t wait another day,
Khaled Shady, 22