This Is How We Can Roll: Inspiration in India Drives Shrey Fadia to Design a Smart Wheelchair
21-year-old entrepreneur Shrey Fadia had an idea which came to him after seeing first-hand, people’s’ daily struggles when using a wheelchair and decided to do something about it.
India is the second most populated country in the world, and is challenged, as are all countries, to find ways to efficiently help make the lives of physically disabled people easier and better. Challenges like these have given rise to an increase in young visionaries in the expanding technology and Internet of Things worlds to develop their own ideas in the fields of science, engineering, robotics and more.
“There are so many concerns that wheelchair users have to contend with on a daily basis, things that an able-bodied person never has to take into consideration,” Shrey said. “The government; although they claim to be doing all that they can for the disabled and physically challenged; in reality is limited. This leaves it up to us, people that have the passion for helping others while doing what they love to make a difference.”
This includes people like Dr. Amir Vokshoor, who founded the Institute of Neuro-Innovation (INI), a non-profit neuroscience research organization, born out of dedication to advancing understanding of how our minds and bodies work, a good friend I wrote about in this blog earlier.
Also, people like my friend and colleague Lauren Towle, who offered her design skills to non-profit organizations since she graduated from college, and continued to do so until she passed away earlier this year. She never let being in a wheelchair slow her down – in fact, she accomplished more in her short life than most in longer-lived lives.
In fact, the very team Lauren worked with on non-profit branding and marketing projects, is supporting Shrey today by establishing a new organization helping share the opportunities for technologists to invent “smart things” that make it possible for physically challenged people to have more independence, freedom and fun.
It is a common trend in India that anyone suffering from any disability generally seeks out the use of a wheelchair, even the aged are using them more often than other available walking aids as they make them feel more independent. Many electrically powered wheelchairs which operate with the use of a joystick were welcomed, but Shrey and his team at college, imagined new ways to leverage the Internet of Things sensors, devices, mobile applications and networks to go many steps further.
Many versions of the Smart Wheelchair, which combine exclusive features with aesthetic designs are already available around the world but the sheer cost of these deter users from purchasing them. Furthermore, there are many features which are unnecessary. The people of India do not require something that is hi-tech and looks pretty, they only wish for something that will make their lives that little bit easier.
Engineers and students, inspired by what they have seen in the news have developed ‘smart wheelchairs’ but none have been launched and made available in the real market even then, these have created some hope for disabled people in the country. Shrey’s version of the Smart Wheelchair aims to eliminate the need for another person to push the wheelchair as well as removing the physical effort the user needs to operate the chair by installing a gesture control and obstacle avoidance system.
Shrey’s project originated on online tech incubator Collaborizm where he was able to draw on other platform users’ talents and skills to further develop his idea. The simplicity provided by the platform allowed him to easily discuss and post tasks in whichever area he needed help in and his idea began to grow into a fully functional prototype.
His vision immediately sparked interest and has now gained official sponsorship from NetFoundry.io, a technology company incubated by Tata Communications. And he attended the IoT Evolution World event in Las Vegas last week to learn from the most advanced developers and businesses in the world of IoT.
People already own various wheelchairs and the system can simply be incorporated into them so that the same manual wheelchair can be turned into a Smart Wheelchair.
The potential scope of this project is tremendous, not only because this particular initiative has received so much attention and support, but because surely Shrey and his team will inspire other young inventors and entrepreneurs to explore similar innovations that can significantly improve lives, in India and around the world.
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