For those who haven't heard about National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), it is the premier organisation that represents and sets the tone for public policy for the Indian software industry. NASSCOM Foundation which is the CSR arm of NASSCOM will be holding an event in association with Genpact called Genpact NASSCOM Social Innovation Honours 2011 on the 8th of February. These honors are meant to felicitate project innovations in the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and also include projects meant to help the physically challenged, the illiterate/semi-literate and others.

One main feature of most of these projects is that they’re cost effective making them affordable for the average Indian consumer. Some of these are still prototypes and need financing for the project to reach a commercial stage. Here are a few of the projects that will be showcased at the event.

Panini Keypad
Remember the Devnagari script at IIT’s Techfest? Here's a similar technology meant for people who are not very well versed with English. The everyday average Indian is not always comfortable using English based interfaces like we see on most devices available in the market. Although we have seen keypads with Devnagari script inscribed on them, it’s not very helpful for people who only understand regional languages. This is where Luna Ergonomics come into play.

Speak your language!

Panini Keypad allows you to send text messages, store contacts and utilize other applications at the comfort of your own language. The technologies are already deployed onto the phone for Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi and work continues to include many others. Plus, the software is also compatible for Java, iOS and Android OS based phones.

You can check out some more information plus download a trial version for seven days on their website. Check out the video below of the Panini Keypad and if impressed, you can buy the application for Rs. 150, valid for a lifetime.

This is what Abhijit Bhattacharjee, CEO of Luna Ergonomics has to say, “The new approach being dictionary-less, lightweight and not being rule-based offers wide ranging technical advantages to the device manufacturers. All languages – all devices – one usability. An Indian innovation.” Also, you’ll get a glimpse of the Panini Keypad at the Mobile World Congress from February 14th onwards.

Blind Helper
The following project, called Blind Helper, has been created by Mohit Khanna and Anurag Mishra from Bharat Institute of Technology based in Meerut. As the name suggests, this project is meant to help the blind interact with a computer.

The project consists of the following modules:

  • Special 'Wireless 7 keys keyboard'
  • E-Vision Software for the PC
  • Special Smart Home Extension Cable (optional)
  • Wireless Headphones

Blind Helper will allow a visually-impaired person to communicate with the computer through a specially developed software called E-Vision. Wearing the headphones along with the Wireless 7 keys keyboard, the user will be prompted to use different options through an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) interface. Later on, all you need to do is enter your option through the keyboard which consists of dedicated keys for Enter, Escape and five additional keys to select various other options from the list.

Helping the visually impaired

Here's an example – a user wants to listen to an online FM radio station. You start off by switching on the E-Vision software, once inside, the IVR prompts various options like “Entertainment”, “Games”, etc. which can be selected by one of the five keys. After selecting that particular option, you're brought to another IVR menu. One option in this list will be “Radio Station”. Select this option and you're good to go.

What it's made of…

Mohit Khanna says, “Blind Helper aims to be a teacher, an entertainer as well as a companion for a visually handicapped person. With some modifications and customization, it becomes a Project of very high utility for other domains as well.”

What’s quite unique about the E-Vision software is that while its running in the background, someone else can continue using the PC. Thanks to the Wireless keyboard and headphones, you’re not required to be glued to the Desktop, allowing for quite a bit of mobility. Plus, even those who have no knowledge of Braille can easily use this software.

Right now, the project is still a prototype and Mohit wants to add features to the software which will help the blind to write documents, or use an email client and more. Mohit Khanna says that this project is quite inexpensive at Rs. 2,500 plus an additional Rs. 1000 for the Special Smart Home Extension Cable.  Mohit is also on the lookout for various companies to help commercialize Blind Helper.

Camera Mouse
There are quite a few people who suffer from long-sightedness, a problem where it's difficult to see material that is close to the eyes, like a book. Sure you can use glasses, but then you need to take care of your spectacles – keep them clean, make sure they don’t break, etc.

Camera Mouse in Action

The Camera Mouse project from an organization called Vision Aid is designed to help in this instance. It’s a small camera-based device that helps people suffering from long-sightedness to read and write. The camera magnifies the script and the magnified view is displayed on your TV. Also, the camera is self-illuminant so in case the environment is not well lit, you won't have to strain your eyes to see things.

That's all your camera mouse comes with

According to M S Raju from Vision Aid, the organization helps out visually impaired people with special training for blind students and teachers. They also focus on various methods to help senior citizens or other people suffering from vision problems. The camera mouse is one such project, it is cost-effective (about 1/10th the cost of a foreign aid) and is readily available in the market.

The camera mouse is priced at Rs. 2,400 with a one year warranty. They claim that this device is shatter resistant, rugged and energy efficient as well. If you are interested in buying one, contact them at or call them at 09849498800 which is the 24/7 helpline of the Vision Aid organization.

Multi-Line Refreshable Braille Display
Another invention for the visually-impaired is the Multi-Line Refreshable Braille Display. This is aimed at those who are quite comfortable with Braille and at the same time can read information dynamically as it comes into a computer.

Multi-Line Refreshable Braille Display

The Multi-Line Refreshable Braille Display is a form of paperless Braille which can constantly refresh itself as the information keeps coming in. Braille Display is a computer interface, as small as a laptop and helps the blind communicate with a computer. You can check their blog for some more information and the video below will give you some insight into how it works.

So there you go, a small list of the current projects that are nominees to win honors at the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum. There are some more projects that we'll be covering in due course, so stay tuned for more innovations.

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