One Ecuadorian student wants to make life easier for blind people and help his community through technology.
Inventor Inti Condo’s batsuit for the blind is just another way for him to help his community. That’s the one word that Condo uses persistently when he talks about his work: community.
Condo, a 28-year-old student at the University of San Francisco Quito, told Not Impossible Now that he uses his access to technology to “change life” for his community, the indigenous Quichua population of Ecuador.
His most recent invention, Runa Tech, two Kichwa words meaning “human” and “of technology,” is a suit for blind people. Inspired by a bat’s mobility, Condo said the suit uses ultrasonic sensors that emit vibrations to direct a person around objects. The suit has seven sensors total, which are located around the waist, down the arms and legs and across the shoulders.
The sensors emit low sound frequencies that are picked up and translated by an Arduino microcontroller. The microcontroller uses one algorithm to calculate how far away the obstacle is and the height of the obstacle and emits vibrations on the suit with increasing intensity to alert the user as the obstacle nears. The vibrations stop once the user evades it.
“This technology suit can replace a bastón — a cane,” Condo said. “The method of communication is very friendly with [the] user, and I try to create technology to help people.”
Condo said he spent the equivalent of about $8,000 to build one working prototype, and that there are still come kinks to work out: The suit cannot be worn under clothing and it wouldn’t work in the rain. He said he would need about $1 million to start any kind of real industrial production, and attention attracted from investors who could fund the project hasn’t been enough.
The cost to produce the suits in the U.S. would be lower, Condo said, but blind people in his community still couldn’t afford the suits, and that’s what matters the most. And this isn’t his first project that he hopes can help people — he’s also worked on communication technology for people who can’t speak.
“I want to work in technology because I consider technology as a tool,” Condo explained.
Condo said his Quichua community is very poor — they don’t have access to reliable electricity or any access to the Internet. With the help of technological advancement, he hopes he can increase their “level” in Ecuador.
Little information is publicly available about the Quichua people, but according to Peoples of the World, most Quichua people, if they have access to electricity, only get it through solar panels. Only larger communities have access to schools, and supplies and facilities are often very basic. In communities located in or around the Amazon rainforest, people often receive their information about the world through a battery-powered radio.
Despite the community’s struggles, Condo has no intention of leaving permanently. When he does leave to explore academic opportunities, he said his goal is to always to return to his community with something new to share.
“My final big project is back again to my community to create an institute of technology,” Condo said. “I transfer that technology to my community and try to change life for my community.”
Watch a video of Condo’s suit in action in RT’s Spanish-language video below:
Top photo courtesy of Inti Condo