Innovation Spotlight: Building a walking companion for the visually impaired.
This blog is part of our weekly #InnovationSpotlight-exploring the stories of ventures within our GDI Hub Accelerate portfolio. Here we meet Hope Tech , a start-up that completed our Kenyan-based Innovate Now Accelerator.
Having attended an integrated high school, Brian, the CEO and founder of Hope Tech Plus Limited, chose to design solutions for visual impairments when he was given the opportunity to study electrical engineering for his degree.
Hope Tech Plus Limited is dedicated to developing innovative technologies and building tools and programs for empowerment that support inclusion in all sectors of society. They accomplish this by utilizing modern technology to produce tools that improve interaction with the physical environment and promote personal development. "The Fourth Eye" was the first product, a device that employs echolocation technology to image obstructions and warns the user via haptic feedback.
“I got interested in Innovate Now because it is focused on building assistive technology targeting people with disabilities.”
It was at this time that Brian and his team began working on their second product, "the sixth sense’, which is a hand-held mobility assistive device that assists visually impaired customers in walking, allowing them to enjoy the freedom of independent movement while providing environmental feedback on the wider environment.
The product was altered significantly as a result of feedback during testing at the Live Labs phase of Innovate Now.
Initially, the aim was to have a handheld gadget that detects obstructions and can be carried about like a torch. However, comments from the visually impaired indicated that a more discrete gadget is required. As a result, components were redesigned to make a wearable device, which has seen tremendous success.
“The Sixth Sense is the first AT from Kenya set to disrupt the way persons without sight move and navigate their world”
“I would advise anyone building anything, to really focus on how to get the problem solved, how to, and be very open minded of what direction the solution can take.”
At the Innovate Now accelerator program, Brian formed lifelong ties with some of his colleagues. "Innovation may be a lonely road," he says, "but having fantastic support networks from other founders and users who keep you encouraged makes a tremendous difference." He states.
While the journey has been challenging, it has also been fulfilling for the young entrepreneur. Hope Tech Plus has grown to a ten-person team from Kenya, the United Kingdom, and Austria. With testing for their sixth sense invention underway, Brian hopes that visually impaired people will be able to fully participate in society in the future using this innovation. So far, Hope Tech has sold over 2,000 units of the fourth eye and has conducted trials for The Sixth Sense in East Africa, the United Kingdom, Australia, Austria, and India.
About Innovate Now
Innovate Now was launched in 2019 as part of the £40 million, UK Aid funded, AT2030 program, led by Global Disability Innovation Hub. "Implemented through a consortium of partners including Amref Health Africa (lead implementing partner 2019-2021) and Kilimanjaro Blind Trust (Live Labs implementing partner and new lead implementing partner)." (“Innovate Now, Africa's first Assistive Technology accelerator reignited .”) Today’s Innovation Now is a partnership between the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), ICT Norway and Norad, bringing a new wave of momentum in the African innovation space.