Alex Deans wins Ontario Science Centre award for iAid device

Alex Deans has developed a device that helps visually impaired people move around more easily. The iAid works like a bat's sonar.

The iAid works like a bat's biological sonar

Alex Deans, 18, has invented a device that helps the visually impaired. (Radio-Canada)

At 18 years of age, Windsor's Alex Deans is an award-winning scientist.

The teen has developed a device that helps visually impaired people move around more easily.

His invention is named iAid.

His latest accolade is being named the winner of the 2015 Weston Youth Innovation Award.

"To be considered is a real honour. It means the work we're doing is really valuable," Deans said.

It was small talk that led to Dean's potential solution to problems that affect the visually impaired.

When he was 12, Deans helped a visually impaired woman cross a busy downtown street. While they walked, they talked. Deans asked what type of technology was available to assist the blind. There wasn't much, he was told.

So, he went to work as soon as he got home.

The iAid works much like a bat uses sonar. The iAid uses four ultrasonic sensors mounted on a belt to scan and map a person's surroundings.

Deans spent the first three years of development figuring out how to use ultrasonic sensors and understanding and simulating a human's 180-degree vision.

Based on the objects the sensors find in the room or building, a handheld joystick moves in the user's hand, directing the the person around the room.

The device also works outside, using Blue Tooth, Google Maps and geocoding. It's also integrated with Android smartphones.

The iAid uses ultrasonic sensors on a belt and a joystick to help the visually impaired navigate their surroundings. (Radio-Canada)

Deans said one of the biggest struggles for the visually impaired is navigating in dim or dark lighting.

The invention impressed Hooley McLaughlin, the vice president of science experience and chief science officer at the Ontario Science Centre.

"The entire jury was impressed by Alex's creativity, motivation and dedication to finessing his design over a four-year period," McLaughlin said in a release. "We look forward to seeing future inventions from this outstanding young innovator."

Deans will be awarded the $2,000 prize at the Ontario Science Centre on June 2.

He hopes to have his iAid for sale within two years.


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