Incubated startup IIT Madras developed portable head-mounted device to run computers, smart devices

Today we live in a digital world with most of our careers based on computers. Digital devices have bridged the gap between urban and rural populations and made the labor market accessible to all.

“Everyone has the right to access these technological tools to strive for better career opportunities,” says Pravin Kumar, 23, founder of Dextroware devices, a startup incubated by IIT Madras.

With an engineering degree, Pravin took the entrepreneurial path after realizing that people with disabilities (PwD), especially upper limb (arm) amputees or those who do not have control of their hands and fingers , find it very difficult to use computers.

According to Pravin, of the 40,000 people who lose their upper limbs (hands), 85 percent live without any assistive device because of the prohibitive costs of these prosthetic arms. In addition, these pose several ergonomic challenges when interacting with computers or any other digital device. Inaccessibility to digital devices is not only limited to amputations, but also to various neurological disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, broken hand, etc.

“Not just permanent PwDs, even for those who have encountered accidents, from this point on the person is completely cut off from technology and unable to return to work. Limited medical and paid time off in the workplace add to this challenge, forcing them to settle for low-paying jobs below their capabilities, ”Pravin explains.

This led Pravin to create a unique solution capable of solving these issues and launch Dextroware Devices in 2020. The assistive technology startup has developed a portable, head-mounted device called “Mouseware” that enables hands-free operation of computers and smartphones with simple movements of the head.

How it works?

Users should wear the headset and rotate their head in the direction in which the mouse cursor should be moved.

“Your head movement is synchronous with the cursor on the screen. This device can also be used to operate smartphones, tablets and smart TVs. The best part is, we’re not going to confine the user to wearing it in one method. They can wear it as a cap, glasses, helmet or headband, ”explains Pravin.

He further explains that the mouse click is performed by several accessible switches like a foot pedal, finger, universal switch, etc., and the user is free to choose any accessory according to his comfort.

“We enable voice input through a text-to-speech engine that includes most English accents and regional languages ​​like Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali, Marathi, etc., as well as international languages ​​like Chinese, German, French and others. The user can also execute customizable voice commands to perform tasks or open applications, ”explains Pravin.

Dextroware has a team of five who worked on the prototype, and now the device is ready for pre-orders.

The eureka moment

Pravin came up with the idea of ​​developing Mouseware during his second year of Engineering in Electronics and Communication at Rajalakshmi Engineering College, Chennai.

A keen gamer, he was fascinated to play games in an immersive way such as using head movement. Meanwhile, his friend broke his hand in an accident and was advised not to use computers and smartphones for four months.

“He was suddenly cut off from technology and that’s when I realized that rather than for gamers, this technology would be a boon for people with upper limb disabilities to use computers and devices. smartphones, ”Pravin explains.

Due to his entrepreneurial spirit and technical skills, he developed the concept of Mouseware as a project. The project was recognized at various technology festivals such as IEEE SS’12, IIT-M Shaastra and Google – Build for Digital India, where it won accolades. “This validation motivated me to increase it”, explains Pravin.

He set up Dextroware Devices after graduating from college. He presented the idea to the IIT-M incubation cell and was selected. In January 2021, Dextroware was then incorporated into the incubation support of Digital Impact Square, an initiative of the TCS Foundation, and the startup secured support and grants from TCS and IIT Madras, which helped design and develop Mouseware for commercial use.

Target market and opportunities

Dextroware works in the assistive technology segment, which Pravin says is not well known in India due to many hurdles.

“We looked at several factors and found a way to overcome most of the problems. For example, an essential part of computer use – typing, has not been addressed by other players developing a similar solution. We solved it by including a voice input feature as well as customizable voice commands. Moreover, there was no one integrated solution to run all smart devices. Another key obstacle was the cost-effectiveness of such assistive technology. Other players offer a similar solution in a price range between Rs 45,000 and Rs 1 lakh. “But we have capped the price of Mouseware between Rs 12,000 and Rs 15,000 to make it affordable and accessible,” explains Pravin.

One of the popular technologies in the same space is Smyle mouse by Perceptive Devices based in the United States.

Business model

The start-up is in a pre-acceptance phase, but has left the pilot phase. He follows a B2B model, where he will work with companies and organizations dealing with people with disabilities.

Dextroware aims to work with NGOs that work with people with upper limb disabilities. “We are also keen to approach former defense personnel who may have lost or injured their hands while on duty. Most organizations would like to hire people with disabilities for employment and we would also like to partner with them to enable employment of people with disabilities. We would also like to collaborate with educational institutions that improve the skills of people with disabilities, guiding them towards employment opportunities, ”said Pravin.

In addition to people with disabilities, the startup also targets people facing accidents and fracturing their hands. “Therefore, we connect with physiotherapy and orthopedic hospitals. Mouseware has also proven to be a great rehabilitation tool for people looking to exercise while working out or playing games with muscle movements, ”says Pravin.

At present, the Chennai-based startup has started accepting pre-orders and it aims to launch it commercially by January 2022. As of now, it is open to get in touch with people who wish to have access. anticipated or experimenting with Dextroware products. before launch, says Pravin.

Capital and plans

The IIT-M incubation cell funded the start-up with Rs 10 lakh, which helped the company complete the minimum viable product (MVP) and conduct the necessary field trials.

“We are currently looking to raise funds for tooling, manufacturing, conformance testing and certification that would help us get our product to market as quickly as possible,” Pravin said.

Going forward, Pravin anticipates that Dextroware’s innovation can become an important tool for anyone with or without digital device skills.

“We would like to bridge the gap between human use and computer use. At a later stage, we want to offer Mouseware as a gaming tool, as this technology will allow an immersive experience while playing games. Ultimately, we would like to make Mouseware a primary mouse for interacting with a computer and smart devices, ”says Pravin.

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