It’s not every day that teens get to trek into the Google offices, but for Yash Varde and Helena Goossens, it’s just another day.
The grade 10 Rosemount High School students created a particular cane and hat, and with a little help from Google, it’s now making a lot of noise.
“We saw a blind person struggling to find the exit in the Metro,” said Varde. “They were using their cane to detect the walls and where the door can be.”
So instead of simply watching, the teens decided to help.
“We thought if he needs to get somewhere faster, it takes a long time,” said Goossens. “He has to feel the wall and find the exit. Once he finds the exit, he might trip or something. So we helped him.”
Both 15-year-olds say from the experience compelled them to try and create something to help visually-impaired people have a better sense of their surroundings.
While it started out as a science project, it quickly turned into something bigger.
Their idea — which was initially a cap that detected distance — brought them to the Montreal Science Fair.
There, they met an organization called Young Leaders, who connected them with Google.
“It was amazing to actually be with like a world company like Google,” said Varde.
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With help of Google technology called Cloud Vision, their idea expanded.
Now, the teens’ project — called VisAbility —consists of a cane and a hat that can not only detect a user’s surroundings and distance from approaching objects, it can also tell you what they are.
With a phone application and a click of a button, users can learn exactly what’s in front of them.
“We’re trying to do our best to get the project really nicely done so it will really help a lot of people,” said Goossens.
The teens say they want to continue developing their products, hoping to soon find investors that will help them grow.
At the moment, their product is just a prototype. The goal is to have a completely finished product up and running within a few years.