Helping the visually impaired orient themselves and retain a healthy and independent lifestyle.
It is estimated there are over 30 million blind and partially sighted people in Europe, with 90 per cent of these over 65 years of age. With roughly one in three older people affected, and the population of Europe ageing, the challenge is clearly significant.
It is into this space that 2017 EIT CHANGE Award nominee Julia Wache has emerged. Julia’s company, feelSpace, created in 2015, was also a family affair: Julia teamed up with sister Susan and two of her colleagues from the University of Osnabrück to create a tactile belt to help the visually impaired orient themselves, and therefore retain a healthy and independent lifestyle.
Users really like it and use it in conjunction with their cane or guide dog to try and explore new places or new routes to popular destinations. As a blind person, you often count the number of steps to particular points in your journey. With the belt, you can relax your mind, as the belt takes care of it.
Julia Wache, feelSpace
The technology, which is primarily sold in Germany thus far, consists of a belt fitted with 16 vibration units designed to provide vibrational feedback to the wearer and help them understand the direction they’re going in. Together with the feelSpace app, users insert a location they wish to reach and receive tactile signals to help them get there safely. Additionally, feelSpace provides an API to allow connectivity with other specialised apps.
EIT Community support
As well as the educational foundation provided by the EIT, feelSpace benefited from funding after they won the EIT HeadStart competition in 2018, which secured them EUR 50 000 in prize money to grow the business. This investment has helped to develop the product and invest in business development to grow the customer base.
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