Tech Breaks Obstacles for People with Visual ImpairmentBy Miriam Bello | Mon, 04/26/2021 - 12:34
Q: What was the origin of AUGEM Technologies and its product, Ultrawear?
AG: AUGEM Technologies was born from a university project. I worked with people who had a visual impairment to adapt technology into a useful tool that could help in their daily activities. After the first prototypes were released, I realized the product’s potential and formally established AUGEM to begin the development of Ultrawear.
CR: Ultrawear has two main functions. First, it detects obstacles that a person with a visual impairment would not detect with a cane, which usually means objects that are above the hip level. This avoids accidents that could result in serious injuries or even death. The second function is a voice interface that recognizes the colors of the objects that a person is approaching.
AG: As it is yet a prototype, this tool does not yet have medical support. However, our intention is to introduce it as a medical support device. Therefore, we do expect to integrate doctors into our advisory teams in terms of development. Our advisers are mainly health and tech entrepreneurs who document the data and feedback we are receiving to further develop the product and transform it into a medical support device. We have also been advised by third parties regarding regulation but for now, the device does not require COFEPRIS approval.
Q: What has been the feedback from users regarding Ultrawear?
CR: As a person with visual imparities myself, I provide a useful insight to support the product’s improvement. However, I know that all people are different, which is why we have distributed 16 devices among different people with visual impairment to get their feedback and understand their needs to improve this solution for our target customers.
AG: Some of these devices have been purchased through our website and some others have been gifted. However, we specify that this is an early-stage product. From the comments we receive, we identify trends to polish the device. It is a people-centric development.
Q: How has AUGEM funded the products it has distributed?
AG: We began with resources from our partners and then we did a crowdfunding at the end of 2019. The latter was to increase the level of development. One of our mentors is supporting us with angel capital for the first manufacturing rounds.
CR: This is a critical subject that needs to improve in the entrepreneurial environment. We have seen few calls for investment or support, which is a barrier to foment entrepreneurship. Resources and information are critical to transform ideas into real products.
Q: What are your plans for Ultrawear regarding its reach and expansion?
AG: We want to strengthen our follow-up with users who already have the device. Based on this, we want to improve it and be able to produce it on a large scale. We also want to improve its packaging and other marketing aspects, based on the feedback we are receiving.
CR: We want to begin involving patient associations and ophthalmologists to identify our areas of opportunity to begin a successful commercialization of Ultrawear.
Q: How does AUGEM promote inclusion of people with visual impairment?
CR: We use social media to share information. I am in charge of the blog on our webpage where I share my personal experiences as a person living with a visual impairment. On the blog, I also share useful information for people living with someone who has a visual impairment.
I think there is still a lot to do on the subject of awareness and promotion of inclusive spaces. While there is interest in learning about visual impairments, there is little information on how to help. We take advantage of this gap and through AUGEM we try to be the creators of this awareness and information.
I have realized the importance of involving people with visual impairments in developing inclusive spaces. I have been to many places that had the infrastructure adapted for people with this condition but at times I still had to depend on someone else.
AUGEM Technologies develops technologies to improve the quality of life of people who have a visual impairment. Its first product, Ultrawear, is a device to change the way blind people perceive and interact with their surroundings.