It may be a joystick, but this device is no game.
When he was 12 years old, Alex Deans watched a woman with a visual impairment struggle to cross a busy street.
<p> After a short conversation with her, Alex decided to use his love of science to improve the way people with visual impairments get around in their communities.</p><p> He started from scratch, teaching himself how to program and connecting with coders and inventors from around the world in online chat rooms. <strong>He thought outside the box when he began to build his new device and found inspiration in nature for tackling the woman's problem in a new way.</strong></p><p> <img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUwMTEyOC9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTAyOTkxM30.b5pbnbitouBbZsveHxIdYC8lxV02jwWOPD2HZNJ6eHc/img.gif?width=980" id="28416" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0521da212ffb374d07d79409d01125d7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"></p><h3>It took over five years for Alex to complete his device, which he calls an iAid.</h3><p> He spent three years working on the prototype and then another three years refining it.</p><p> But, boom! He made it happen. <br></p><p> <img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUwMTEyOS9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzODE3NDk2Nn0.9RD19xypU8Bw02sHWIglPnRTe_A1frSQJO6vttK4pTI/img.gif?width=980" id="a2f37" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="945005371edae45b04284e2299f0184b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"></p><h3>Like the echolocation system bats use, the iAid maps environments using sound waves. </h3><p> Basically, the iAid is a belt with four sensors, attached to a small joystick.</p><p> When used inside <em></em>, sound waves bounce off objects. The sensors communicate to a joystick, which pivots in the direction the user should go, allowing the person to navigate around obstacles without using a cane.</p><p> <img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUwMTEzMC9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjAyNjU5NH0.nHgGasrzAx7u-v65Ra-6HbyLf05tIIjfI2BhAs53RYg/img.gif?width=980" id="78d18" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3deaaa56bd0098ba94fa6e0da0db8cde" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"></p><p class="image-caption"> Images by Canada AM.</p><p> When used outside <em></em>, the system uses GPS, Bluetooth, Google Maps, and a cloud service to send information to the user's smartphone, proving once again there really is an app for <em>everything</em>.</p><h3>The iAid has received lots of positive feedback from testers at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.</h3><p> "One of the major things they said was the the device actually improved their confidence in navigation," Alex said in an <a href="http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/nature-inspires-teen-inventor-s-navigation-aid-for-the-blind-1.2402361" target="_blank">interview</a> with "Canada AM."</p><p> Alex was even named one of <a href="http://www.macleans.ca/education/canadas-future-leaders-of-2014/#deans" target="_blank">Canada's Future Leaders</a> and recently took home the prestigious <a href="http://blogs.windsorstar.com/news/windsor-teen-wins-ontario-science-centres-weston-youth-innovation-award" target="_blank">Weston Youth Innovation Award</a>.</p><p> He hopes to use his new-found fame (and $2,000 in prize money) to continue improving the iAid. <strong>It's his goal to have the device on the market in two years.</strong></p><p> Not bad for someone who's still in Grade 12.</p><h3>Check out the iAid in action in this interview Alex did with Canada AM. </h3><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="270" mozallowfullscreen="true" scrolling="no" src="https://bmplayer-a.akamaihd.net/shareable/embedssl.html?dc=ctvnews_web&cid=626392" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="480"></iframe>
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