Students join Apple and Google in Glasgow to brainstorm

Design and technology students from Scottish universities and colleges will take up a unique challenge this week, to come up with solutions to some of the day to day problems that blind and partially sighted people face.

The students are taking part in the TechShare Europe conference being held in the Glasgow Science Centre on Thursday and Friday.

Global players and new technology at TechShare

Organised by the charity RNIB, the event is bringing together such global players as Microsoft, Google and Apple to explore how new technology can transform the aids and adaptations that people with sight loss use for everyday living.

The students will form teams that will sit in on conference sessions and talk to blind and partially sighted people who are attending to hear what obstacles they face at home and outside. They will then brainstorm ideas among themselves and pitch solutions to some of the problems identified at the end of the conference next day.

Encouraging technical innovation

The student challenge is being organised by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, which helps students develop enterprise skills, discover their entrepreneurial talent and start up their own ventures.

Ann Davidson, SIE enterprise programme director, said: “We are very excited about this challenge, which will bring together students from a number of different disciplines. All of the teams will receive support from our business advisors and RNIB.

“The emphasis will be on technical solutions, not just apps. We expect to see innovations in areas like wearable technology, for example. We are giving the students space to be creative, to understand their customers, and come up with something that is really desirable.”

‘Life beyond the event’

By the end of the conference, each team will be expected to produce a rough prototype that will have a life beyond the event with a clear idea of what problem it is solving and why it is worthy of further exploration and support.

“There will be a clear framework that we will guide them through to get them to that position and give them the motivation to take their idea forward,” said Ann. “Innovation and industry experts will be on hand to mentor and coach them through the process.”

Digital Age creating possibilities for everyone

RNIB Scotland director Campbell Chalmers said modern technology has the potential to revolutionise the independence of people with low or no vision. “We want to ensure that the Digital Age opens up the same exciting possibilities for visually impaired people as it does for the sighted population,” he said. “That’s why this student challenge is very exciting.”

Around 188,000 people in Scotland are blind or have significant sight loss; around two million across the UK. At least 280 million people worldwide are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind.