Madhav Ajay Lavakare, a 20-year-old New Delhi resident, was selected as one of 12 global winners for designing an assistive technology gadget for the deaf, hard of hearing, and elderly. Madhav Ajay Lavakare, a 20-year-old New Delhi resident, was selected as one of 12 global winners for designing an assistive technology gadget for the deaf, hard of hearing, and elderly.
“In class XI, a friend who was hard of hearing suddenly stopped coming to school. He faced difficulty in following teachers’ instructions or communicating with classmates. Good quality hearing aids were expensive, and cochlear implant surgery was cost-prohibitive for him. Speech-to-text apps on mobile phone had poor caption quality, which diverted attention from the ongoing class or conversation,” he says.
Research revealed that hearing aids, cochlear implants, and smart glasses can be unaffordable or inaccessible for many people in developing countries like India, adds Madhav. “Thus, I decided to build affordable, real-time smart captioning glasses for people with hearing loss,” he says. Madhav has built TranscribeGlass, an affordable and comfortable wearable device for people who are hard of hearing and use captions to improve their comprehension of spoken communication. “It enables the wearer to watch the speaker and receive non-verbal communication cues, as well as to increase environmental and situational awareness while simultaneously reading the captions, thereby increasing their understanding of what is being said,” says Madhav. The user first launches a mobile app and chooses the caption source, which will convert speech to text, adds Madhav. “The caption source could be automatic speech-to-text models from companies like Google or Microsoft, or from live human captions or even subtitle files. The captions received are then transmitted via Bluetooth to a display within the hardware device. The hardware device is attached to the temples of spectacle frames that are worn by the user. The captions from the display are projected in the real world in the wearer's field of vision using the concept and optics of augmented reality so that the wearer can see the person who is speaking, and simultaneously read the captions,” he says further. The young innovator is the founder of TinkerTech Labs, a consumer assistive technology startup that was incubated at IIT Delhi. “Ideally, I would like to continue to improve and launch the product while also completing my further studies,” he says. Madhav is amongst the 12 recipients of the 12th NCPEDP- Mphasis Universal Design Awards, initiated in 2010 by National Centre for Employment of the Disabled People (NCPEDP) with the support of Mphasis. These awards are amongst the most sought-after awards that recognise excellence for disability friendly innovations and practices Early life Born and brought up in New Delhi, Madhav spent a few years of his childhood in Palo Alto, California. “I completed my school education from Sanskriti School, New Delhi, in 2019 in the Science stream,” he says. Madhav then deferred his higher education for two years to work on his innovation full-time. In the current academic session, Madhav has joined Yale University, Connecticut to pursue an undergraduate degree.