IIT boy with vision impairment has developed a new ‘voice app’ that helps visually impaired use popular apps. Pramit Bhargava, an alumnus of IIT-BHU and IIM-B, is behind the Louie app that enables visually impaired users to use popular apps with just voice commands.
Suffering vision impairment due to a drug reaction 20 years ago, Bhargava envisaged a mobile app that would serve as a ‘virtual friend’, carrying out interactions like humans – something he himself wished existed for booking a cab or sending a WhatsApp message. His idea came into being by his wish to help blind and visually impaired, and help them use commonly used apps and controls with voice commands. The IIT-alumni faced several hiccups to get developers on board. But soon he received funding from Sequoia Capital, which helped him recruit developers to work on his dream app. A team of 14 developers, including three visually impaired creators started testing the app for user experience.
Bhargava says, “Louie Voice Control is a part of the larger effort to make tech products and services accessible for the people with disabilities and special needs. With smartphones becoming more accessible than ever, it becomes natural to design solutions that benefit a larger section of the society, including blind and visually impaired people. The app’s name Louie was derived from Louis Braille, inventor of the Braille, a system that enables blind and visually impaired people to read and write through touch.” He further adds, “Whichever app we support, whatever phone functionality we support, we got to make Louie so good that just like a sighted person, a visually impaired person should also be able to do each and everything within that app with just voice commands,” he says.
Bhargava says the core technology used to develop the Louie app is designed in-house. The Louie voice app uses Google’s speech to text conversion, which involves of artificial intelligence. “With Louie, you can set up any voice engine and voice that you want. We don’t have a voice of our own,” he said.
Unlike other voice assistants like Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa, which are meant for the sighted masses, he says that Louie asks users for the destination, and accordingly tells the available rides and the order of increasing prices before confirming the pick up. Even post booking, users can call the driver and cancel the ride. His voice app provides a complete cent support within the app.