Cupertino High School senior Sanket Dange is developing an app to help the visually impaired recognize objects and read text. When you point a smartphone or tablet camera at an object, the Pigen app can speak the object’s name or read aloud the text in a sign.
Dange also wants to add the abilities to count currency and read documents, labels and barcodes. Since the app’s audio is in English, Dange says it also might help someone learn the language.
He was inspired to create the app after learning that his cousin in India, had made a version of Scrabble using Braille to help people with vision problems play the game. At the time, the Cupertino student was interning at a company called Baarb, which was doing work in artificial intelligence and image analysis, and that’s when he had the app idea.
“The app is called Pigen because of the bird’s insane ability to use its beak to sense the magnetic frequencies of the Earth for navigation. I thought that since my app can help people navigate without using their eyes, the name would be fitting,” said Dange.
Coding the app on a MacBook Pro, Dange worked for about two months on the project using the Dart language within the Flutter framework. For the image recognition functionality, he used the Google Vision API, which learns to identify images more accurately over time. For the user interface, he drew layouts on paper, and then programmed them in Flutter. When the app is finished, he plans to upload it to the iOS store.
“We had many conversations about various aspects of this project, particularly on ease of use,” said his father, Pradnesh Dange, who has a software engineering background. “He, however, completely built it himself.”
The younger Dange started coding when he was a freshman and can program in Java, Dart, Python, JS, HTML and CSS. He’s also taken Advanced Placement computer science at Cupertino High School. After graduation, he plans to attend a four-year college and study computer science. His career vision is to work in the high-tech industry in a capacity that helps people.