A wearable assistance system for swimmers with total or partial blindness was developed by a group of students, as part of the 7th Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition of Junior Achievement Greece (JA Greece).
The revolutionary assistance system consists of a swimming cap with glasses, and is intended to help swimmers with their orientation in a swimming pool. The device, which is located on the cap, has a set of sensors that notify the swimmer wearing it about his or her orientation in the pool, the arrival at the end of the swimming route for the turn or the finish.
Additionally, the system includes a Bluetooth headset that can be connected to mobile devices and inform the swimmer using it about his or her timing and statistics.
“The goal is to give full autonomy to each swimmer with visual disability”, explained a student at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering of the National and Technical University of Athens (NTUA).
“The athlete has the ability not only to align during the route, but also, to know when to make the turn and where to end the swimming race.”
“At the same time, through a gyroscope for orientation and an accelerometer for the timing of the route, the swimmer has the ability to know other information, and through the connection of the device, with a mobile internet of things type application, he or she will know at each end of training exactly the statistics of the race for further improvement,” Panagiota added.
The students, who are also members of the Swim.me team that promotes the sport of swimming around Greece, wanted to develop this innovative idea in order to encourage visually impaired people of all ages, amateurs and children, to get involved with swimming, regardless of the challenges that they might face.
“We are hoping that through this device they will have the opportunity not only to start at a young age, but also to further engage in swimming,” Panagiota highlighted.
Rania Vlachou, student of Management Science and Technology at the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB) and member of Swim.me, first came up with the idea of the device, and along with a very strong team of participants, including Ifigenia Vasilaki and Anastasios Karamoutis from AUEB, and Dimitris Lambros and Vangelis Georgakilas from NTUA, the blueprints of the system came to life.
The group of students also had the opportunity to receive an “Olympic” kind of feedback, as they presented their project to Paralympian and World Champion swimmer Charalambos Taiganidis, who was enthused over the idea.
“It was very important for us to get validation from such a renowned athlete, who is one of the people directly concerned with the device, and he not only approved it, but also gave us feedback and tips on how to continue and make further use of the project,” Panagiota Dedousi said.
The system is the second big project for visually impaired people that has been developed by Greek students, as the previous innovation, called “Smart Vision” and created by middle-school students, also received global recognition and praise from the international scientific community. Smart Vision is designed to help blind people in their daily shopping activities and includes a device that recognises product labels in a supermarket and can “read” to the user the basic information of the label, such as the expiration date or ingredients.
The JA Greece competition is part of the JA Start-up and JA Europe programmes, in which more than 300 Universities across Europe and 15,000 students participate each year. These initiatives give the opportunity to students aged 18-30 to develop their own entrepreneurship idea and encourages them to use their skills in various areas of a business.
The Greek team is currently in the process of making the whole swimming cap device waterproof and ready to use, and will represent Greece in the Pan-European JA competition, which will take place online in Lithuania, later in in 2021.