Shiva Kumar H R, a student at the Indian Institute of Science, has won the 'Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award' for the year 2015. The award was given at a function held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on March 8, 2015. Shiva Kumar is pursuing his PhD under the guidance of Prof. A G Ramakrishnan, at the Medical Intelligence and Language Engineering (MILE) Laboratory, Department of Electrical Engineering, Indian Institute of Science.
Shiva Kumar and Prof. A G Ramakrishnan have developed high accuracy Optical Character Recognizers (OCR) for Kannada and Tamil languages that convert scanned pages of a printed document/book into e-text. In addition, they have developed an intuitive GUI called Print-to-Braille tool that enables even non-technical people to quickly use their OCR and make corrections to the mistakes, if any, in the text output by the OCR. By using their OCR along with the Print to Braille tool, the family members or friends of visually challenged people are able to scan any printed book/document and convert it into Unicode text within a short span of time. The visually challenged person can listen to that e-text through any Text to speech (TTS) synthesis software. The e-text can also be converted into Braille codes and printed using a Braille embosser.
Given by SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions), the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award aims to recognise student projects that have strong social relevance. It rewards projects “that address an important social, environmental or technological problem faced by masses or disadvantaged people/sectors/spaces or micro and small enterprises, or have the potential to impact a pressing national need”. Shiva Kumar's work titled 'Gift of New Abilities' was chosen for the award in the 'Computer science, Information technology & related fields' category.
The number of blind persons in India is over 18 million. Much of the printed material in Indic languages (classical literature, novels and even school and college books), for which e-text is not readily available, is not accessible to them. Converting such books into Unicode text by manual typing would be very time consuming and costly. Use of a very high accuracy OCR, like the one developed by Shiva Kumar & Prof. AGR, would bring down the time and cost drastically, thereby enabling to convert more books in a short span of time and make them accessible to visually challenged people.
Hundreds of Tamil books, including school and college textbooks, story and general books, have been converted into braille format, and distributed to the needy. A Kannada version of the software has been given to some voluntary organisations and individuals in Karnataka, who are associated with blind students in Karnataka. Prof. A G Ramakrishnan & Shiva Kumar won the Manthan Award given by the Digital Empowerment Foundation, in December 2014.
Apart from being a PhD student, Shiva Kumar is a Staff Software Engineer at IBM Software Labs.
About the award
More details on the award and project are available at: http://gyti.techpedia.in/project-detail/gift-of-new-abilities/4749
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