Imagine you’re in a foreign land. You do not understand the language of this place, nor do you seem to know the ways. You happen to be alien to the language on the road signs and the money vending machine. Anxious and panicked, your hands stumble upon the pocket and you wish to dial up the number of an acquaintance or rescuer, only to find a blank screen, totally unreadable.
This might be horrifying to you, but then you know, it’s hypothetical.
For some people, it’s the gist of their lives. The world of visually impaired people is not much different than this.
Automatic gadgets all around and yet we expect the visually challenged to hold a stick and find their way. Scientists have invented more things than any Guinness Book will be able to record. However, very less has fallen in the kitty of the blind where their lives haven’t changed much.
Smartness is a virtue to some people but these people have to have it. From environmental challenges to social apprehensions, life can anytime throw unexpected trials.
What are major challenges of the visually impaired outdoors?
Traveling in a crowded metro and walking by a lane of fast moving vehicles can be dangerous. Down to this reason, people usually accompany a friend or family member.
Also, at the home or workplace, they need to be familiar with the blockages like a table, chair, doors, and any potentially harmful obstacle. The walkways need to be clear but not every place is made that friendly.
Even the public conveniences like toilets are usually not customized for blinds. Such challenges hinder the growth opportunities of these people and limit the possibilities for progress.
The simple yet the very important access, that is the internet is not available to many who are deprived of the advanced technologies. Obtaining and maintaining a job are also far-fetched dreams for many since people usually focus on the disability than the other abilities in them.
The world has developed but not much for the blind people. A century ago, a Brit photographer had invented a white cane so that his surroundings could identify his condition. A hundred years later today, not many path-breaking projects that could prove life changing for these individuals are present.
How is Augmented Reality helping Visually Impaired?
AIRA, a platform to the rescue of visually impaired people came into existence. The brainchild of the three enthusiastic professionals, Suman Kanuganti, Yuja Chang, and blind communications professional Matt Brock, the technology is intended to bestow autonomy and independent outlook to the unsighted. Through its transformative remote assistive technology, the differently abled person is connected with AIRA’s certified agents through an Augmented Reality dashboard. The certified agents are able to see what the visually challenged person faces in real life. The agents then guide them through the way and help them make sound decisions.
The concept is so simple and beautiful, that it’s amusing why someone couldn’t come up with the idea any sooner.
The meaning behind AIRA is deeper than you would imagine. Pronounced as EYE-rah, the technology derives its name from the combination of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and RA (an ancient Egyptian mythological symbol meaning Eye of Ra. The eye of RA is a representative of protection, healing, and the power to perceive.
Aira’s Certified Agents:
Joining the team means helping people and being soulfully satisfied. The unprecedented technology helps the blind enjoy the world and travel around without the need of an assistant all the time. With a strong desire to help people, AIRA makes it easy to explore the world through its real-time request feature which provides a virtual friend. The great feature is that the wearable device can connect to any smartphone pretty easily and is durable.
While providing help whenever required and wherever, AIRA is making a bold step towards the emancipation of those who were left with a stick.
Described as “Sharjah’s gift to the world” by Ahmad Al Ameri, the chairman of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF) is certainly a huge gift wrapped in a world of fun, delight and learning for the young members of the society. 10 days of activity, amazement and creativity at the Expo Centre Sharjah, the 10th edition of the SCRF was inaugurated by His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, the UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.
Following the festival theme “Your Future Just a Book Away”, as 134 local and foreign publishers, and 286 authors, poets and other literary guests join to add colors to this outstanding cultural festival, with over 50,000 children are being led through some 2,600 events and activities spanned over 11 days of the festival. SCRF 2018 offers a series of interactive and creative activities, sessions and workshops for the young learners under the main theme of Kids Activities, Cultural Programs, Social Media Café, Cultural Café, Kids’ Creative Café as well as Cookery Corner. The event further comprises many distinctive features including 3D Books workshop, Pop-up Books Exhibitions, Future Machine Exhibition, SCRF mascots and a cooking competition called “Little Chef” for children aged from 6-10 and 11-16 years.
Sheikh Sultan personally toured the different displays, workshops and exhibition halls adorned with a vast collection of printed as well as digital publications and learning materials by local, regional and international publishing houses and organizations. During his visit, he also viewed and appreciated the Children’s Books Illustrations, where 104 illustrators contributed their 355 artworks from 32 countries, including 12 Emirati and 29 illustrators from other Arab countries.
Sheikh Sultan commended the illustrators for their contributions in capturing children’s imagination to help develop their interest in reading. Illustrators that stood out receiving exhibition awards from Sheikh Sultan were Rasa Jansiawiskit (Lithuania) with first prize, Yang Park (South Korea) with second position and ranking third was Mariana Pedraza hailing from Mexico.
Further at the books exhibition the SCRF Awards 2018 were awarded to authors with Dr. Ibrahim Shalabi and Sonia Al Nimr receiving the Arabic Young Adult Book Award, targeting children 13 to 17 years of age, for their books “Wasim Tours” and “Thunderbird” respectively, while the International Children’s Book Award was presented to Michelle Zilkoski as well as Mariam Saqr Al Qasimi for her book “Where the Letters Disappeared?”. Author Nahed Al Shawwa scored the award for the Best Arabic Children’s Book (age group 4 – 12 years) for her book “One Dream or Two”. The Sharjah Police Science Academy also received an award for their work for the visually impaired children.
This year Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2018 features specialized spaces not much different from labs for children’s activities aimed at instilling a deeper sense of interactive exchange with kids. The children have the opportunity to experience several different learning techniques meant to provoke creative interest in them and develop it further with the help of innovative approaches. For instance, at the Future Machine Exhibition, children are being familiarized with new age digital models and replicas developed on the principles of artificial intelligence whereas the Fun Robotics Centre introduces them to stimulating workshops to help children as well as adults develop their knowledge and skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mechanics.
Then there is the 3D Books Exhibition that brings back the ancient art of pop-up books to children filling their minds with wonder and, the 3D art workshop held by Italian children’s book publisher Matteo Faglia further helps intrigue their imagination by teaching them how to turn a simple piece of paper into a 3D pop-up. While over at the Social Media Café, guiding about the use of new-world social media platforms, the children are being educated about their safe and useful application in daily life.
Moving on, children have some real amazement and excitement in store in the form of virtual reality and augmented reality interactive sessions at the VRXOne led by CEO, Dr. Sana Farid. The workshop seems to attract a huge crowd of young as well as adult visitors as the children are guided through different Google Expeditions exploring the virtual worlds of biology, geology and world travels. Their excitement and interest piques up as their actions translate into response by virtual objects.
The festival also features a series of Arab and foreign theatrical performances combining education with entertainment including the virtual reality illusion show by famous Japanese visual artist Hara Hiroki, showcasing the latest in fusion magic and holographic illusionary art.
As the SCRF continues to go on capturing the attention of the youth, enlightening them on the importance of book reading and the various creative and innovative conventional and modern learning techniques, the event has still a lot to offer over the next few days promising great excitement, entertainment and learning.