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Dalhousie Engineering Students Developing Revolutionary AI Glasses to Enhance Accessibility for the Visually Impaired

Now in their second year of the Bachelor of Engineering program at Dalhousie University, friends Rudransh Goyal and Vinayak Maheshwari have always played with the idea of using their education to create innovative solutions in resolving everyday problems. After Goyal’s time working at the CNIB Foundation last year, the two explored the idea of developing artificial intelligence (AI) enabled glasses for the visually impaired. Through their participation in Emera ideaHUB’s DESIGN workshop, Dal Innovates’ Collide Camp and the Minor in Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s World’s Challenge Challenge, the two have used these initiatives to refine their idea from both a research and development, and entrepreneurial standpoint. In recently coining their technology VisAble, Goyal and Maheshwari are seeking to grow the business by partnering with major visual impairment organizations and bringing their product to market.

Dal Innovates had the chance to speak with the founders to learn more about their journey to entrepreneurship and what the future holds.

Tell us about yourselves, what is your background and how did you first get interested in entrepreneurship?  

We are both Indian international students currently finishing our second year of engineering. Vinayak is pursuing Industrial Engineering, whereas Rudransh is in Computer Engineering. As engineers, we have always been interested in coming up with various solutions to day-to-day problems. We often sit together and discuss how we can come up with a product or service for someone we see in need. Initially, we only focused on providing a solution to the community, but with this idea, we want to bring it to the people as a commercial product and try to help as many people as possible. We came across the Emera ideaHUB stall at the recent Dalhousie career fair where we explored the opportunity to join the 3-day DESIGN workshop that focused on entrepreneurship and customer interaction. Through the workshop, we heard about Collide Camp and that intrigued us to join this program as well. Through these workshops, we were able to pitch our great idea which took into consideration all aspects of entrepreneurship and customer discovery.  

How did you come up with the idea for VisAble? What motivated you to address visual impairment?  

Last summer Rudransh worked as a sales representative for the CNIB Foundation which supports blind people. Observing how visually impaired people are challenged in their independence, freedom and flexibility in certain daily tasks got us thinking about making a product that can change their lives. In this technologically advanced world, the best solution was to incorporate AI into our solution to allow for better and more secure future advancements. We then came up with the idea of AI-powered glasses for the visually impaired. The name “VisAble” was chosen as a wordplay for expressing the potential of any individual with the help of our glasses.

How has your participation in programs like Collide, Collide Camp and World’s Challenge Challenge helped develop your idea, and progress your journey in bringing VisAble to the marketplace?  

Through our participation in Collide Camp, we were able to collaborate with successful entrepreneurs and learn about their experiences, as well as receive some valuable advice on our project. It was also great to connect with other young minds in the program who are working on amazing start-up ideas. Interactive sessions, especially related to customer discovery, were very helpful as everyone came up with brilliant opinions and they gave us a broader perspective on what we need to focus on. The World’s Challenge Challenge also taught us how to explain our idea better in terms of marketing and investment pitches. By presenting the product several times, we identified several flaws and worked on some improvements.  

What are your plans and/or next steps for VisAble? If all goes to plan, where do you see the company in 5 years?  

We are currently working on establishing communications with CNIB and other blind welfare organizations in Canada to set up interviews with some visually impaired individuals to discuss the current problems they face and the need/importance of our idea. We are also working on a prototype which should be ready by the end of summer. If all goes to plan, we wish to see ourselves partnered with several major organizations by the end of 2028, selling our glasses to these organizations for a wide customer base. We also wish to expand out of Canada and help the visually impaired throughout the world. With technology advancing at such a rapid pace every single day, we are also looking forward to creating the best AI assistant for such needs.  

What advice or resources would you want to share with young innovators in a similar space, looking to get started with their own entrepreneurial journey?  

The biggest piece of advice we would like to share would be to think of even the simplest idea as a potential product and discuss it with future customers. Without knowing what society actually needs, it gets very difficult to keep fantasizing about solutions. It is also very important to present your ideas to as many people as possible because it helps you understand the minor flaws and get valuable feedback.  

The future of VisAble is bright with these two at the helm. After winning the regional competition, the two will go on to represent Dalhousie at the global World’s Challenge Challenge at the University of Western Ontario this June. Join us in wishing them good luck as they present their solution for the chance to win up to $30,000. Thank you to Rudransh and Vinayak for chatting with us! 

The Incubate Innovate Network of Canada (I-INC) is a pan-Canadian, internationally connected network of high-performance university-linked accelerators and incubators. I-INC creates an ecosystem for the efficient commercialization of university-based and science and technology-enabled innovation. Founded in 2014, the network has expanded to include 13 universities across Canada.

Learn more at www.iincanada.ca.

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About Dalhousie University

Dalhousie University is Atlantic Canada’s leading research-intensive university. Located in the heart of Halifax, Nova Scotia, with an Agricultural Campus in Truro/Bible Hill, Dalhousie is a truly national and international university, with more than half of the university’s 20,000-plus students coming from outside the province. Dal’s 6,000 faculty and staff foster a diverse, purpose-driven community, one that spans 13 faculties and conducts more than $194 million in research annually. Part of a cluster identifi ed as one of the world’s top international centres in ocean research, the university proudly celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2018.