Two award-winning Brisbane engineering students, one of whom is blind, are building what they claim is a world-first stargazing app to cater to the blindness community.
The app has been designed using NASA data and allows users to move their phones around and understand where corresponding planets, satellites, stars and comets are using touch and sound.
The developers behind the app are Yuma Decaux and Jake Dean, engineering students who launched a start-up company called OSeyeris.
Decaux was left blind after a firework launched straight at him instead of into the sky and exploded in his face while he was working in Asia almost 10 years ago.
The stargazing app is the only one that allows visually impaired users to search for specific planets and stars and verbalizes detailed information.
“You can swipe around to find satellites or planets and move the phone around to change the view of space,” Dean said. “You are then guided with auditory and vibrational feedback to help you find the planet or satellite you are searching for. You then double-tap to zoom in on a planet. Most other apps leave you as just an observer but we are trying to build an exploration platform to help users understand in 3D.”
The app was inspired by Decaux’s personal experience.
“I come from the south of France and this time of year is the most beautiful because there are comet showers,” he said. “I was always aware of looking up at stars and I could tell people where Mars is, so it has always inspired me, but I couldn’t do it since the accident.”
The stargazing app is being tested to fix any bugs and is planned to launch in the Apple App Store during the next two months.
Decaux and Dean have also created a digital tape measure for the visually impaired and recently won a James Dyson Award by beating 25 other entries from across the country.
Decaux and Dean aim to break down social barriers between the visually impaired community and the rest of society by making their products easily accessible.
The aspiring engineers’ digital tape measure caters for the visually impaired, reads measurements aloud and connects to a smartphone app that stores the data and uses it to create graphs.
The developers plan to launch a crowdfunding campaign before the end of the year and make the product available online.