Pune: What started off as a college project for two city-based youths, as a part of their Industrial Design syllabus, is now set to be launched commercially, providing hearing impaired persons a chance to communicate. 24-year-olds Janhavi Joshi and Nupura Kirloskar are ready to pilot their Blee wearable, a wearable device that notifies hearing impaired individuals of certain activities and sounds, of which they need to be vigilant.
The duo founded Bleetech last year after designing a solution for hearing impaired dancers, which converted music into vibrations. “We then got the idea to use a similar design for normal communication also. We started the company a year ago and started applying with different organisations as we needed initial funding for our hardware-intense project. We also applied with the Nasscom Social Innovation Forum (NSIF) and got selected. We got the necessary capital to carry on with our work and also mentoring,” said Joshi.
Joshi said that they have already designed the first 50 pieces of this wearable technology, the Blee wearable, which will be launched during an event in the city on Sunday. “We are piloting the product in Pune, Mumbai and Bengaluru right now, focusing more on the impact it can make, ways to maximise the impact and to study the functionality of the wearable. Also, our focus is not to be an NGO but a for profit company, so we will consider this aspect as well during the pilot phase,” she stated.
Speaking about the need for such wearable technology for hearing impaired persons, Joshi explained, “The penetration of hearing aid is very low globally. We realised that hearing impaired people are not very comfortable with sound, which is produced with the hearing aid. We found out that they are comfortable with vibrations and designed the product around that.”
Sharing a real-life scenario, she said that if hearing impaired parents have a baby, they would not understand when the baby was crying and would have to be vigilant round the clock. “With our device, they can record the sound of the baby crying and whenever the baby cries, a vibration from the device will alert them. This will help them go about life normally. These are basic sounds but have an impact on their daily lives,” she explained.
Speaking about the costing, Joshi said that they are set to launch two variants of the wearable. “The one we have designed costs Rs 5,000 but we are also going to introduce a low-cost version later, which will be affordable for the common man,” she stated.
Speaking about Bleetech, Associate Vice President of Nasscom Foundation, Shirish Raut said, “They are one of the winners of NSIF 2017 with a social startup aimed at the hearing impaired population. We are expecting much more such startups from Pune. We are officially setting the stage for NSIF 2018 and our focus is on Pune as it is a product and IT hub. The winners for all five themes - Financial Inclusion, Healthcare, Environment, Education and Accessibility - will get grants as well as mentoring on technical and non-technical subjects.”