Nigerian-born tech innovator Zuby Onwuta is the mastermind behind ThinkAndZoom, an app that allows visually impaired people to overcome their disability using Google Glass and other devices. An app of this nature is of particular interest to Onwuta because he was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy, leaving him legally blind by 1998.
Onwuta had immigrated to the United States in 1995 to pursue a career in medicine, but his diagnosis threw a wrench into his already promising academic career. He was forced to drop out of Triton Community College and accept a medical discharge from the US military.
After he overcame the initial depression that had set in after his diagnosis, Onwuta decided to study Computer Engineering - a decision that would ultimately lead him to invent ThinkAndZoom.
“My journey led me to this point,” he says. “I threw myself into research not only to understand the root causes of some conditions of macular degeneration but also, using my engineering background, to look for ways to solve these challenges.”
The ThinkAndZoom application uses Google Glass and similar applications to offer hands-free visual magnification to individuals who suffer from visual impairment. In its current prototype state, the device reads the user’s concentration or focus using its EEG reader such as Neurosky Mindwave. In other words, to enhance vision, the user needs to focus on an object or text. The application then tells the device to zoom in.
“The idea behind it is that people who do not have a visual impairment, all they have to do to see is look,” he says. “I thought of a way to mimic the natural way of seeing.”
As for the future of ThinkAndZoom, Onwuta says it’s poised to be a revolutionary wearable technology. Proposed features include the ability to use predefined motions to enhance areas of vision, like “pinch and zoom” to magnify texts. The device will also allow users to scan texts they would rather listen to than read.