“It’s not about the end, it’s about the journey.” Well, for Roopam Sharma, his journey from a model to a visionary is mind boggling. He designed and invented a device that would change the lives of the blind immensely.
A model from Faridabad, Roopam Sharma broke all stereotypes and went on become a worthy entrant in the Foreign Policy magazine’s “100 Global thinkers”. While studying at Manav Rachana Institute, he went on to invent a text-to-speech device that would help visually impaired people understand and learn about the world with much ease. Though Roopam had his eyes set on the ramp five years ago, his abundant talent and certain situations in life led him to a path of inventing products.
Interestingly this is not the first product Roopam has created. While distributing cards with his friend in a village of Haryana, he saw an old woman tied to a bed screaming in pain, since the people around her had no measures to take care of her. Although disturbed by that sight, but determined to bring a change, he developed a position tracking device while attending a workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2015. That device would help the caretakers of patients with certain illness to be alert if the patient wandered off too far.
Roopam, a visionary and creator, always had a strong sense of sensitivity towards people with disabilities and a heart – to – heart conversation with a friend who was colour blind, broadened his scope of imagination. It was then that he researched and realized how miserably braille was failing in India, mainly because it was difficult, expensive and there was not much content that was printed in Braille. Thus, only 1% of people could actually use braille as a measure for learning. His persistence to develop a better method of learning for the blind also become a reason for his parents worry as he would often skip classes and concentrate on his experiments of product designing.
The final output was Manovue, a device that could be worn like a glove which was integrated with a mobile app and had a camera attached to the tip of the finger. The camera would capture the text that the person had his finger placed on, and would read aloud the content which would enable the visually impaired person to learn without restriction. A true visionary, Roopam went on to receive India’s National Youth Award (2017), Gifted Citizen Prize 21016 and UK’s Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce.
The first trial of his product was held in India where over 800 people tried his product and their feedback was carefully adapted and incorporated in his design. Now he is working towards the Second trial which will be held in April or May in Washington DC, where he is currently based. The easy on pocket product ranges from 28$ to 650$. Though the device is still expensive, his aim is to reduce the cost to make it more affordable and more accessible for people around the world.