Our goal was to impact a community of people in the world in a big and positive way. We found a problem missing a proper solution, the visually impaired community. The visually impaired community did not have proper access to emerging assistant technology that is both affordable and accessible.
What it does
The greatest inventions throughout humanity's history have always been based on the adaptation that animals have around us. Example: Birds and Planes. Whales, dolphins and bats all use Ultrasonic waves to navigate and communicate. Unfortunately, thus far no major efforts have been made to replicate these concepts until now.
Echoo is a light weight stick-device equipped with ultrasonic sensors and vibration motors that will assist visually impaired individuals to navigate, avoid obstacles, and perform everyday tasks with a sense of what is around them. The Echoo device acts like a personal radar, always alerting the user of what is around them in real-time.
How we built it
There are both hardware and software components equipped to the Echoo device.
Hardware: consists of a ESP8266 microcontroller, one ultrasonic sensor, a vibration motor, battery, and charging circuit. With all these components, the ultrasonic sensor is commanded by the microcontroller through Python code to repeatedly sense the surroundings. If an object is within the sensitivity range, the microcontroller will command the vibration motors to vibrate at varying intensities.
Software: using IBM Cloud, and a Node-Red server, runs a web-based application that controls the sensor sensitivity. The web-based application and microcontroller communicate through MQTT protocol.
Syntax for sensory of object in range (in Micro-Python):
from hcsr04 import HCSR04 from machine import Pin import time
sensor1 = HCSR04(trigger_pin=16, echo_pin=5)
front = Pin(14, Pin.OUT)
distance1 = sensor1.distance_cm() print('Distance Front:', distance1, 'cm') if distance1 == -0.0171821: front.value(0) elif distance1 < 5: front.value(0) elif distance1 < 20: front.value(1) time.sleep(0.10) front.value(0) time.sleep(0.10) elif distance1 < 30: front.value(1) time.sleep(0.15) front.value(0) time.sleep(0.15) elif distance1 < 40: front.value(1) time.sleep(0.20) front.value(0) time.sleep(0.20) elif distance1 < 50: front.value(1) time.sleep(0.25) front.value(0) time.sleep(0.25) elif distance1 < 70: front.value(1) time.sleep(0.30) front.value(0) time.sleep(0.30) elif distance1 < 85: front.value(0.35) #elif distance1 < 100: # front.value(1) # time.sleep(1) # front.value(0) #elif distance1 < 150: # front.value(1) # time.sleep(2) # front.value(0) elif distance1 > 100: front.value(0)
Challenges we ran into
While developing constantly and working on our project, we faced effect of burnout throughout the 24 hour experience. There were many hardware issues at the beginning, but after troubleshooting, we managed to resolve the issues. For some of us, we were sacrificing some of our own studying time as high-school exams are around the corner, as well as some final projects in certain classes.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
The fact that we managed to build a functioning prototype as well as conduct a massive amount of internet market research, along with our web presence all make us very proud of the effort and final product achieved.
What we learned
We learned that time is truly a precious asset and that we tend to be more productive under time pressure. After feedback from mentors, we discovered what the judges and many markets would look for, and what they would deem unnecessary.
What's next for Echoo
We hope to improve upon our prototype and turn this concept into a real product that many will benefit from. We hope to improve upon the sensor itself and possibly have a more wide-ranged radar. The temperature sensor was an idea to research on as temperature can change the speed of sound which may tamper with the performance. We hope to overall bring this idea into reality where the future of visually-impaired human beings will benefit from.