Technology Innovations

Posts Tagged ‘Psychology

Bangalore-based Dhananjai Bajpai, 24, is using the gesture-recognition technology to develop Kommunic8, a wireless wearable device that converts hand motions into speech. The device holds promise of improving communication for over 19 lakh speech-disabled people in India alone. A pilot project is currently being done with EnAble India, Bangalore, to test the functioning and accuracy of the device in the hands of actual users.

Dhananjai, who belongs to Kanpur city of Uttar Pradesh (UP), India, has completed his Bachelor’s in Electronics and Communication Technology degree from Shri Ramswaroop Memorial College of Engineering and Management, Lucknow, UP. He works at KFX Circuits and Systems in Bangalore and is also associated with Excubator, a startup incubator and corporate venturing advisory organization, where he works on Kommunic8 in his spare time. His aim is to use gesture-recognition technology for social benefit.

According to the 2011 Census of India, of the 268+ lakh total disabled population about 19+ lakh people suffer from speech disability. This population struggles not only in communicating with their surrounding environment, but also faces low job prospects that lead to another fight for quality sustenance. Kommunic8 aims to enable this populace to “talk” with anyone without any hesitation. 


One of the challenges in bridging the divide between the speech-impaired and the common folks is that the sign language is difficult for a common man to understand and is restricted to the speech and hearing disabled community. Also, there is no standard international sign language that is followed consistently across the globe – each region and culture has its local sign language. These reasons prevent the differently-abled to communicate with others and live their social and professional life normally.

Kommunic8 equips the speech-impaired with a lightweight, wireless wearable ring-shaped device that can convert their sign language gestures into reasonable sentences in real-time and provide output in the form of an audible speech as well as a readable text on the K8 smartphone app.

With 97 percent accuracy and self-learning capability, the current prototype of Kommunic8 can be customized and programmed for any local language.

How it works

Kommunic8 is still in the development phase. Dhananjai began working on the technology in 2013, as a final year project, by creating a wearable glove which could detect the degree of bending of fingers and show respective alphabets on a mobile phone screen as per the American Sign Language. That was just the beginning which got its fair share of media attention. However, the wearable glove had its shortcomings in terms of size, speed, cost, and usability.


Initial prototype of Kommunic8

Initial prototype of Kommunic8

The current prototype of Kommunic8 uses a small circuitry packed neatly inside a ring like structure. The circuit uses gesture algorithm and a motion sensor that recognizes the sign and orientation of the user’s hand on which the device is worn. When the user moves or bends his/her hand to make a gesture, the sensor collects information and the software processes it to convert data into a sentence. The sentence is then spoken by a mechanized voice that is made audible through an inbuilt speaker. The same output can be presented in the form of a text on the K8 smartphone app.

The device operates on inbuilt battery that lasts for 10 hours – Dhananjai is working on increasing the battery power to last up to 24 hours. The device can be charged by any micro-USB charger.

The initial device will come with 50 actions predefined for ready use. The software, however, uses machine learning and will keep updating the database of gestures and sentences as the user starts using Kommunic8 regularly. Speaking of the storage capacity, Dhananjai says, “For now, Kommunic8 will come with a memory of 2 GB which can store up to 3,000 actions. This is sufficient, as on average a user may use maximum 100-300 actions in general. However, there is a provision for users to update the dictionary by connecting the device to a computer and make changes through the K8 desktop app.”

The device is supported by the K8 app available for Android and Windows phones that can be used to display the text, configure the device, recreate database and produce the speech output for interactions.  Here is a demo video.



Next steps

There is still a lot to accomplish before a market-ready version of Kommunic8 is complete. 

Dhananjai has filed a provisional patent for the technology innovation.

Now he is primarily focused on drastically improving the aesthetics of the device and using a more human voice output instead of the mechanized one. He is also working on including a small screen in the device with four push-buttons that can be used to reconfigure, expand and delete the database on-the-go, thereby removing the need for a secondary device for any kind of updates or assistance. 

Meanwhile, Dhananjai is reaching out to non-government organizations that might be willing to support pilot projects and provide sponsorship for further improvement of the device.

EnAble India is using Kommunic8 to:

  • Help teachers learn and improve their sign language and make classroom learning more attractive
  • Empower EnAble associated speech-impaired employees to use Kommunic8 for their daily communication at work.

“Results from the pilot will help me improve the device for the users. I am hopeful that Kommunic8 will allow them to get front-end jobs,” says Dhananjai.

Dhananjai can be contacted at and +91-8765379454.



BloodBag_470At the 2015 MIT Design Innovation workshop, a MIT Media Lab India initiative, a group of students and professionals has created a mobile application called Blood Collective that allows those in need of blood to search for voluntary blood donors available in the vicinity.  

The team developed the application prototype at the 2015 MIT Design Innovation Workshop in Gandhinagar as part of the Civic Innovation track which focused on building “the tools that help change the world together”and “a better technological infrastructure to support the engaged citizens who are already acting to make their communities better, and inspire others to join them”.

The home screen of Blood Collective app

The home screen of Blood Collective app

Combining different skills, each team member contributed differently to create the alpha version of the app and test it during the workshop. While IT industry professional Pragnendra Rahevar (32) floated the idea and shared the concept, National Institute of Design graduate Akshah Ish (27) designed the complete user interface of the application. The core development of the app has been done by Ayush Sharma (20) of Arya College of Engineering and IT, Jaipur, with necessary research and support provided by Abhimanyu Kumar (20) of Haldia Institute of Technology, West Bengal. 

Bridging the Gap

Voluntary blood donation is considered the highest form of humanitarian service as it is done without the expectation of knowing who it will eventually help. Each unit of blood donation helps many patients as blood is usually segregated into RBCs, Platelets, WBCs and Plasma and given away as per requirement. But then there are yet not enough people who opt to donate blood. 

In India there is constant shortage of blood. According to a 2012 World Health Organization (WHO), every country needs at least a one percent blood reserve. India, with its 1.2 billion population, needs 12 million units of blood annually but collects only nine million of which 70 percent is from voluntary blood donors while the remaining 30 percent is from family/replacement donors.  

Even though most blood collection is done from voluntary donors, the voluntary blood donors network remains fragmented and inaccessible to a large community at the time of need. The Blood Collective smartphone application aims to tap into this existing network of blood donors and bring them at your fingertips. 

“In India it is just a chance that you will get blood when you need it. Some people do not want to donate blood, while some who are willing to do it find it frustrating to go to the blood banks criteria, fill forms and donate. Tapping into the community of voluntary blood donors therefore remains a challenge. The current gap between the demand for blood and its supply also leaves scope for touts, agents and illegal, unsafe blood donation. Paid blood donation is illegal in India.  Our application targets the problem in a simple manner – if you need blood, connect directly with multiple blood donors close by and see if any of them is willing to offer help,” explains Ayush.

How it works

During the workshop the alpha version of the Indian-centric app was hosted on local servers and directly uploaded to a few mobile phones. However, based on the feedback from mentors and users, with the help of a few volunteers the team is now developing the beta version of the app. 

The app is expected to function like this: The first time the user accesses the application, she will be requested to select from the two categories “I want blood” or “I want to volunteer”. Once a voluntary blood donor selects the latter option, her name and number gets registered in the database. However, for safety reasons, the name and number of the donor is not shared with the requester. Rather, when the requester searches for a donor in the vicinity, she can view profile icons of the available donors and can send a request to them through the app. The requester’s number is sent to the donor and the decision to respond entirely rests with the donor.

The map feature shows the requester available blood donors in the vicinity

The map feature shows the requester available blood donors in the vicinity

The volunteer category also enables the voluntary blood donors to see all requests, allowing the user to contact the requester directly and offer blood donation. 

“The most important aspect of the app is to generate awareness about safety of blood donation and encourage volunteering. Currently, whenever people need blood, they either opt to call, send SMS or post on social networking websites. The wait for a response is stressful. At blood banks, if you have donated blood in past six months, you may be charged around Rs. 1,400 per unit. If you haven’t, the chances of getting blood are dismal. The solution to all this is volunteered blood donation. Bringing volunteer blood donors closer to the needy therefore could be very helpful and that is the focus of the Blood Collective app. Using the app, both a volunteer and a requester can save lives,” explains Pragnendra who has been volunteering with a non-profit organization for over three years, organizing blood donation camps across the country. 

Next Steps

The team is developing the beta version of the app and improving its user interface, adding more features to it, and carrying out basic user testing. It is expected to be available on the Web and on Google Play store by May 2015. The group is looking for more volunteers with specialized skills to develop the application for the iOS and Windows platforms. 

The Blood Collective mobile app has a huge social potential to connect and build a large network of voluntary blood donors with the requesters, allowing the common man to save lives and be human. However, it needs to build on its unique aspects that will differentiate it from the existing apps. 

To know more about Blood Collective, contact

(This article is part of a series on innovations presented at the 2015 MIT Media Lab India Design Innovation Workshop.)

Chennai-based Mad Street Den startup has built a cloud-based platform that uses artificial intelligence to enable any smartphone with a camera to identify faces, detect facial expressions and emotions, and react to facial and head gestures. The expression acts as a trigger for a certain action, for example, frowning at the phone when an unwanted call comes in could make it shut down forthwith, or lifting an eyebrow could send the caller a message asking ‘What now?’

This image-recognizing platform, called MAD Stack, can be used by app developers and companies to create a futuristic mobile user experience. Mad Street Den founders Ashwini Asokan and Anand Chandrasekaran  explain that the idea is to make machines more useful by making them a bit human: fun, intelligent, and relevant.

The process of recognizing a human expression or responding to a gesture is simple for a human brain, but quite complex for a smartphone camera to do digitally. It is artificial intelligence that enables a camera to do this. What’s more, the app keeps getting smarter with use, through machine learning algorithms. Read more

Indian American engineering graduate of North Carolina State University, Ankesh Madan, is one of the four entrepreneurs who have developed a prototype for a new nail polish line that changes color when it comes into contact with date rape drugs. A date rape drug, also called a predator drug, is any drug that can be used to assist in the execution of drug facilitated sexual assault. 

Ankesh Madan, Tasso Von Windheim, Tyler Confrey-Maloney and Stephan Gray founded Undercover Colors to be “the first fashion company working to prevent sexual assault,” as reported by The Mary Sue.

The team is developing a nail polish that changes color when it comes in contact with date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB. With this nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger. If her nail polish changes color, she’ll know that something is wrong.

Through this nail polish and similar technologies, Undercover Colors hopes to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught. In effect, they want to shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators. Some of the other drugs that the product would be effective for, include: (RS)-2-(2-Chlorophenyl)-2-(methylamino) cyclohexanone (ketamine), 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA) (aka: “Molly”/ecstasy) or γ-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB). 8-Chloro-1-methyl-6-phenyl-4H-[1,2,4]triazolo[4,3-a][1,4]benzodiazepine (“Xanax”) and “roofies” (Rohypnol).

Undercover Colors is not currently a product to be marketed, but has raised tremendous interest in the start-up arena, having raised $100,000 from one investor. Undercover Colors is now seeking crowd sourced funding via online donations portal, which offers both one-time and recurring donation options.

The product is already gaining popularity, signaling need for the product by women who feel vulnerable going out on blind dates and who will seek any form of protection against being sexually attacked. Read more

Seeing the increasing demand for homes and power, Team Shunya, a collaboration of Rachana Sansad Academy of Architecture and Indian Institute of Bombay (IIT-B), has built a sustainable, cost-effective, energy-efficient, solar-powered house for the Indian middle class in urban areas.

Team Shunya students took up the task of developing a house which was not only technically precise, but practically feasible as well. This led to birth of H-Naught, a solar house built upon the Vedic system of Vaastu and some green technology to optimize a fully functional urban residence for a family of six.

Keeping in mind the ever-rising construction material rates, students gave the house a blend of the Indian architecture and used a pair of bamboos and gypsum in the prefabricated insulating panels. These serve the dual purpose of insulation and of providing structural strength. In this ultra-modern home, an automation system has also been designed to manage various appliances of the house and monitor comfort conditions. With these and many other features embedded in the powerhouse H-Naught, IIT-B aims to promote and popularize the use of solar energy. Read more

Most schools in rural India can’t afford basic supplies like desks, and most of the students attending them can’t afford backpacks. To address this, Bombay-based nonprofit Aarambh worked with designers to come up with an ingenious solution that can transform old cardboard boxes into a convertible desk and school bag.

The result, Help Desk, folds quickly from one thing to the other; at the end of the day, a few simple moves turn the desk back into a bag to carry books home. The design ended up costing only about 20 cents to make since it’s made from used cardboard. The designers prototyped a few different variations to test with the students, looking for a solution that would be ergonomically correct as a desk and is also easy to build. So far, the final design has been given to 10,000 students at 600 schools.

The desk-bags don’t last forever, especially since cardboard doesn’t stand up well to the rain. But the team is working on developing a low-cost material that can be coated on the surface to help it repel water. Right now, they only last about six months to a year. But anytime they need to be replaced, it’s simple to make again. Read more

Indian engineer H. Abdul Shabeer has created a device that deactivates mobile phones before they can cause accidents or deaths on the highways. As soon the driver’s use of cell phone is detected, especially when the vehicle is in motion, the jammer flashes warning beeps within five seconds. If he still continues with his chat, it can immediately switch it off or a micro camera will click him in the very act and transmit it along with the number plate to the traffic control room or near a signal post so that police can act on time. If anybody tries to damage or remove the system, then the device will automatically transmit the vehicle’s registration number to the control room.

The low-cost device, powered by the vehicle, can differentiate between a mobile phone being used by a driver or any passenger in a van or a bus, even if many of them are making simultaneous calls.

The system could be a boon for a country like India, accounting for the highest number of road accidents worldwide, claiming thousands of lives every year, according to reports. Shabeer has applied for a patent on the product, which is ready for commercial applications. Read more

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