Wayne State University announces results of inaugural Mobility for All competition

illustration of smart city

A smartphone application aiming to improve quality of life for the blind and visually impaired (BVI) population was deemed the winning project of the year-long Mobility for All competition at Wayne State University.

A group led by Jessica Tan, a student in the Wayne State School of Medicine, received $10,000 from the Wayne Mobility Initiative (WMI), an interdisciplinary group that promotes collaboration and innovation across the university on mobility, including research, education and community engagement.

“Leveraging mobility technologies to address the real problems faced by the community was the most important principle when we launched the competition,” said Weisong Shi, chair of the WMI steering committee and professor of computer science in the College of Engineering. “The committee was very excited to see all five teams in the final stage addressing community challenges, including accessibility for people with disabilities, food insecurity and public transit infrastructure. The outcome of the competition is fantastic and has demonstrated the innovative ways by which our students, faculty and alumni want to change the world.”

RecognEyes is an app that can help users — including the nearly 58,000 BVI individuals living in Wayne County — better navigate their surroundings by using an augmented reality model that integrates object detection and binaural sound. While the user scans the room using their camera, RecognEyes detects objects of interest such as doors and uses binaural sound localization and distance callouts to guide users to that object.

“We believe that RecognEyes has the potential to make a significant impact on BVI users’ quality of life, not only in Detroit but for everyone who has access to a smartphone,” said Tan. “After hearing firsthand accounts of the stigma experienced by BVI community members and their dependence on others, we realized the need for a navigational aid like RecognEyes, where even a small sense of gained independence can make a difference.”

The WMI steering committee also elected to give $5,000 in support of the runners-up, an industrial design team from the Department of Art and Art History led by Senior Lecturer Siobhan Gregory. Her group rekindled a past collaboration with Deeply Rooted Produce (DRP), a mobile grocery service that works with local urban farmers to reach underserved communities. In 2019, students created conceptual designs for a food truck, a mobile market delivery truck, a mobile educational display, and a sustainably designed welcome center and community kitchen.

The work today is centered on strengthening the business plan of DRP owner Dazmonique Carr by developing a digital app, creating printed materials and other low-tech tools, and gather data from interviews and focus groups to understand consumer preferences and shopping behaviors. The goal is to expand DRP’s user base and scope of service.

Since Mobility for All launched in October 2020, teams primarily comprised of students, faculty and researchers from schools and colleges across Wayne State University worked to deliver proposals for scaling their proposed solutions for mobility challenges in metro Detroit. The field was narrowed to nine semifinalist teams in February, and subsequently to five final teams in May.

Visit mobilityforall.world to learn more about the competition.


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