The words ‘isolation’ and ‘obstacles’ more often than not accompany the mention of the North East, feeding a psyche of victimhood. But now and again shines a star shattering stereotypes. In 2017 that star was Arunachal Pradesh’s Anang Tadar, a high-school student whose goggles for the blind, the G4B, made world news – his inquisitive mind, resolve and genius transcending geographical isolation, financial constraints and an ‘academically mediocre’ tag. Hailing from the small remote village of Nyapin in Kurung Kumey district, Tadar was awarded the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Awards 2017 and Dinanath Pandey Smart Idea Innovation Award 2017 for the G4B.
Speaking from his rented one-room apartment in Nirjuli, where he is currently preparing for Class 12 exams, Tadar, 20, says “the idea (for G4B) struck when a blind woman asked me for directions, which made me to think how difficult it might to be blind in today’s world where the streets are crowded and cluttered with electric poles, signboards etc. (sic).” Tadar felt the need to make movement easy for the visually impaired, and the concept of goggles for the blind took birth.
The G4B is a unique pair of goggles that uses ultrasound and infrared sensors to help the visually impaired detect obstacles on their path. The technology, which is based on echolocation — similar to what bats use for navigation — could be used to detect any obstacles on all sides within a distance of two metres. When the sound waves hit a nearby object, they produce an echo that bounces back to a bat. Similarly, the two ultrasound sensors detect the echo and send a vibration alert through coin vibration motors fitted on two temples of the goggle. There is also an infrared sensor in the middle of the gadget to detect obstacles in case both the ultrasound sensors fail. When an obstacle is detected, a beep sound is heard through the audio output along with vibration to alert the person.
Showcased to the world in 2017, Anang has till date created three prototypes. When the final prototype is ready, the UNICEF, among others, has assured help to promote and market his invention in the market.
The eldest son of a socio-economically marginalised family – parents are farmers – lack of money has always been an impediment in Tadar’s growth. He, however, sportingly observes that financial problem is common to all innovators, inventors and developers. “Especially for a guy like me, whose parents don’t even earn Rs 1000 per month.”
The tech genius recalls how he would prefer tinkering around with mechanical toys than joining his peers in sports. He claims that nothing in particular inspired him to fall in love with robotics and mechanics. “Science, especially physics, has always been my interest area and since we didn’t have television, mobiles or internet, I learnt by opening remote-controlled cars, broken gadgets etc..”
He confesses that academics, especially mathematics, has never been his forte. “I used to get scolded often for not securing good marks or failing. Then there were lectures about how I won’t get a job if I do not study hard.”
While G4B brought him to the limelight, Tadar has many more innovations to his credit, including drones, robots and other electronic gadgets. He has won prizes in different technical events and expos in different NITs and IITs. “I spend most of my time making new things, maybe a robot, gadget etc.,” he says.
Tadar hit the headlines when he won the first place in technology exhibition at Regional Innovation Festival at Regional Science Centre Guwahati for his G4B. The road then led to the National Innovation Festival, New Delhi, by Nitin Maurya from National Innovation Foundation where Tadar displayed his Goggle for Blind Prototype-2 and became a star of the show. All praises for Nitin Maurya, Tadar credits him for his success. “He has been extremely helpful, he is my mentor and my guide.”
A paucity of funds delayed Tadar presenting the the G4B glasses to the world. He says that the glasses took him longer than expected to configure and recalls how he would walk almost every other day from Nirjuli to Doimukh, a distance of about four kilometres, to use his friend’s computer and work on the programming of the G4B. It was only after his first prototype that the young inventor could afford a computer of his own and buy other required tools with fund provided by Chief Minister Pema Khandu.
Despite the recognition and some grants, the going is still tough for Tadar in the absence of a stable source to fund his projects and inventions.Tadar says he borrows from friends, well-wishers and even relatives. But he is largely dependent on the cash awards he wins at tech events with one project fueling the next. “You will know how I work if you were with me – I go without sleep for 2-3 days at a stretch when I start working on something, because if I don’t win the first place in a competition, I will fall short of money for my next project.”
A local publication reported that the Arunachal Science and Technology department would adopt Anang officially towards the end of this financial year and fund his projects and their requirements.
Anang informs his parents cannot comprehend what he is involved in. Asked how his village community’s response, he says, “The people of my village are happy to know that I am doing something to help the society even though they don’t understand what exactly I am doing.”
And this is exactly what Tadar wants to do. “I want to make world a better place to live in. My passion for ideas, innovation and inquisitiveness about how machines work will forever persist. And I will continue to create.”