Sharjah students scoop James Dyson award for 'smart ring' to help visually impaired

The Egyptian friends won the famous inventor’s competition for their wearable technology prototype

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Two friends from American University of Sharjah will take on the world after winning a competition for student inventors.

Maryam Moustafa and Nada Aldash took home first prize and Dh9,500 for their invention of a ring that helps visually impaired people decipher colours.

Their invention – Touch – scans items such as clothing or fruit. The user holds it against a piece of clothing, which activates a colour sensor and it then reads this back to the user.

The piece of wearable technology can also scan labels and read them back.

A wearable technology born and bred in the UAE

A wearable technology born and bred in the UAE

The Egyptians, both aged 23, triumphed in the James Dyson Award, an international design accolade to inspire the next generation of engineers. It is named after the British inventor, best known for vacuum cleaners.

“It can be hard to understand the challenges people with visual impairments have to face,” Ms Moustafa said. “Even for a simple task such as picking out clothing or groceries, many have to rely on other people to choose for them.

“But with Touch they can reclaim their independence. We are so proud to have won the James Dyson Award and hope that it can become a mainstream and valuable tool for people with visual impairments.”

Her joy was shared by her friend and fellow inventor Ms Aldash, who hopes to use the award as a platform for further success.

“Winning the James Dyson Award has given us the encouragement to fully develop the smart ring,” she said.

“It’s amazing to think that from our initial brainstorm and our discussions about how colour is perceived by people with visual impairments that we were able to create a solution.

“We are still in the early phases regarding the future direction of the device but from our discussions with future users we now understand that there is huge potential.”

Now they have conquered the UAE heat, the young inventors will wait to hear if they have made the 20-strong international shortlist, which will be announced on October 15, before a final winner is announced on November 19. The winner will take home Dh150,000.

Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth, said she was proud of the role that bright young people are playing in the country’s future.

“As the UAE positions itself as the hub of innovation and ideas, we must recognise that we would not be able to do so without the persistence and diligence of young people in engineering, science and technology,” she said.