Third year students, Sanskriti Dawle and Aman Srivastava have shown that clean and simple ideas can have an exceptional impact. As founders of Project Mudra, these young entrepreneurs trying to achieve social good are an inspiration for many. Their device, the Braille Dicta-teacher aids learning of Braille and is powered by the Raspberry Pi, with custom software made using Python. Second year student, Shaikh Saif came on board and took charge of product design. For their endeavour they were awarded the Prof. Suresh Ramaswamy Memorial Award. We had a brief interaction to know more about Project Mudra and what lies ahead. Here are snippets of the interview:
Q1) How did Project Mudra start?
We realized the amazing potential of the Raspberry Pi after a workshop that was held on campus. We wanted to go beyond the usual starter projects and build something which extended beyond academic causes. So we came up with the rough idea which would go on to become Mudra -The Braille Dicta Teacher.
Q2) Could you throw some light on how your flagship product, the braille dicta-teacher works?
Mudra consists of a Raspberry Pi, Python code, an Android app and a Braille cell consisting of six solenoids. Mudra integrates speech recognition with tactile hardware to provide an augmented Braille teaching device. In Browse Mode, the voice input is converted to text using Google speech-to-text. The response is filtered to check homophones, then each character is mapped to its unique Braille representation by matching it with a six-digit binary code. The 1’s and 0’s stand for raised dot and flat surface respectively – since every Braille letter has six dots – each either raised (1) or not raised (0).These signals are sent to the tactile hardware in order to generate the corresponding Braille representation. Alternately in Auto Mode, the user can also opt to simultaneously listen and feel a sequence of audiotactile alphabets, for repetitive retention in memory. In Exam Mode the user is tested on their knowledge of Braille letters, by generating a random character on the tactile surface and asking them to guess which letter it is.
Q3) Have you received support from the institution for your project?
Yes! Our then director, late Prof. Sanjeev Aggarwal was very encouraging and
gave us a chance to present Mudra at BITSAA Global Meet 2014 in Hyderabad. Dr. K E Raman has also been very supportive throughout. We had a little difficulty in obtaining leave for PyCon due to administrative requirements, but eventually managed to get it approved. Recently, we were able to print our prototype in the institute’s 3D printer, and Dr. Neena Goveas has agreed to mentor us. Dr. Mridula Goel has also given us invaluable feedback and advice about how to take it ahead.
Q4) You also participated at Pycon 2014, how was the experience?
PyCon was an amazing experience indeed! We had the opportunity to meet and hang out with people like Guido van Rossum and Kenneth Reitz. We also got a lot of valuable and positive feedback on Mudra, and enough validation to motivate us to pursue it further.
Q5) You have received a lot of media coverage, could you elaborate on that?
After being selected as Campus Ambassadors for TEDx BITS Goa, we were interviewed by YourStory and Frederick Noronha. From there, the official Raspberry Pi blog covered our project and we were also featured on Scroll.in and FastCo Design! Also, during the summer we were interviewed by India’s leading newspapers.
Q6) You were recently awarded the SuRa award, how does it feel to receive such an honour?
We are deeply honoured to receive the SuRa award. It will really help us in our next step i.e. testing our prototypes in a school for the blind. Apart from the financial support, the award will also enable us to use the Institute’s 3D printer – which is a major part of our prototyping. We feel very grateful for receiving recognition and support from our own college – it will ‘kickstart’ the next phase of Project Mudra.
Q7) Do you plan on using platforms other than raspberry pi, or taking your products to other nations? What are your future plans?
We plan on creating user interfaces on other mobile platforms like iOS and Windows, to make the core cell accessible from any device. We have a great team now (Aman Srivastava, Sanskriti Dawle, Saif Shaikh, Deven Mehta, Palash Karia, Saurabh Swami) and we are exploring various options that include starting up.