Co-designing assistive technologies in India

Dr. Kyle Keane, Lecturer and Research Scientist in DMSE, has partnered with LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in Hyderabad, India to collaborate on a project to create new technologies that serve people with visual impairments. 

Through MIT-India and the MISTI Global Seed Fund, Dr. Keane was able to travel to India with an entire class of students to produce prototypes that could be field tested, receive design feedback, and — for successful products — potentially enter the manufacturing and distribution pipelines. The credit-bearing course brought a mix of MIT undergraduate and graduate students to Delhi, Chennai, and Hyderabad. In addition to LVPEI, MIT-India introduced the group to the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi), where MIT students worked with the Assistech Lab, as well as doctors and physical therapists in other facilities. 

Most critically, students teamed with individuals with disabilities at each location to brainstorm designs for individuals with disabilities. “Working with partners is critical because they have an established infrastructure and through their years of work in this area, they have developed the trust of the community,” says Keane. “We need that trust to make things happen. It’s fundamentally important that these workshops involved individuals with disabilities in order to make an impact, and coming from the U.S., we had no way to make that happen without our Indian partners.” 

“I’d say my biggest accomplishment was that my team got to 3D print our first prototype system to help Aishwarya, a woman with a visual impairment, identify and label matching clothes,” says Autumn Gei ’21. “It was so rewarding to address a problem, ideate a solution, and 3-D print a prototype.”