Holi Joy

How an Indian teenager's software programme could brighten the lives of colour-blind people

On the day of the Festival of Colour, spare a thought for those for whom neon hues appear like an ugly shade of brinjal.

When a friend of Animesh Tripathi wasn't able to join the Indian Air Force because he had red-green colour blindness, the 17-year-old Delhi resident decided to make an application for computers and tablets that would alleviate colour blindness. ReColor is still in development, but Tripathi's basic research on it has won him a place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, to be held in May in Los Angeles.

He is one of 12 participants shortlisted from India after a fair in Bangalore in November.

“I started working on this project from March to May 2013 for the Google Science Fair which was being held online,” said Tripathi, who is currently writing his 12th standard board exams. “After that, I decided to develop it further for the Intel fair.”

Colour blindness does not necessarily refer to a complete inability to differentiate between colours, but to a difficulty in perceiving the difference between red, green or blue hues. Seven per cent of the world’s population is colour-blind –  one in every 15 people.

Not many people in India know about the condition, said Tripathi. While developing the app in its initial stages, he visited several eye specialists and organisations for the blind, but was unable to get much support from them. “It is difficult for people to know about their colour blindness as most people do not go to doctors to check for it,” he said.

According to Tripathi, there are several ways one might go about achieving colour correction while using a computer screen or tablet. An easy one is to change the contrast of colours so that differences are more easily perceived. He is more ambitious. He is working on an algorithm that will examine each pixel on a screen and individually process them to enhance colour perceptions.

The circles pictured below show how people with different types of colour blindness can be able to see the difference between colours.



“I want to develop a universal algorithm where you can customise how you view different colours,” he said. “I have narrowed it down to four algorithms now and I need to test them with more people.”

Tripathi is developing two versions of ReColor. One is a basic Google Chrome extension that will allow colour blind users to enrich their online experience with a single click. The other will be a native feature that can function on any device, from tablets to laptops, to enhance accessibility.

“I need the algorithm to be more precise in terms of effectiveness and narrow it down to one,” he added. “I have to cumulate all my research by April 20, which means I have to finish all my testing by the end of this month.”

After being selected for the fair in November, Tripathi and the 11 other participants attended a coaching camp to help them spruce up their projects for their final presentation in May. Mentors there said he needed to test his work on actual subjects who have the condition. For this, he needed a larger sample size.

He pitched the project on the popular crowdfunding website Indiegogo and exceeded his goal of $1,000 by $597. The money will go towards accessing a larger sample audience online.

Tripathi is no stranger to the world of project development. He learnt his first programming languages – C, C++ and others in the family – in the fifth grade. By the ninth grade he had learnt PHP, HTML, CSS and Javascript. This was also the year in which he started working on developing projects.

He now does website designs and front-end development, and hopes to attend college in the US later this year, once admissions come through.

If Tripathi wins at the Intel fair, he plans to give 30 per cent of the reward money back to the donors who contribute to his project online.

 
Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

People who fall through the gaps in road safety campaigns

Helmet and road safety campaigns might have been neglecting a sizeable chunk of the public at risk.

City police, across the country, have been running a long-drawn campaign on helmet safety. In a recent initiative by the Bengaluru Police, a cop dressed-up as ‘Lord Ganesha’ offered helmets and roses to two-wheeler riders. Earlier this year, a 12ft high and 9ft wide helmet was installed in Kota as a memorial to the victims of road accidents. As for the social media leg of the campaign, the Mumbai Police made a pop-culture reference to drive the message of road safety through their Twitter handle.

But, just for the sake of conversation, how much safety do helmets provide anyway?

Lack of physical protections put two-wheeler riders at high risk on the road. According to a recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Nearly half of those dying on the world’s roads are ‘vulnerable road users’ – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. According to the Indian transport ministry, about 28 two-wheeler riders died daily on Indian roads in 2016 for not wearing helmets.

The WHO states that wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40% and the risk of severe injury by over 70%. The components of a helmet are designed to reduce impact of a force collision to the head. A rigid outer shell distributes the impact over a large surface area, while the soft lining absorbs the impact.

However, getting two-wheeler riders to wear protective headgear has always been an uphill battle, one that has intensified through the years owing to the lives lost due on the road. Communication tactics are generating awareness about the consequences of riding without a helmet and changing behaviour that the law couldn’t on its own. But amidst all the tag-lines, slogans and get-ups that reach out to the rider, the safety of the one on the passenger seat is being ignored.

Pillion rider safety has always been second in priority. While several state governments are making helmets for pillion riders mandatory, the lack of awareness about its importance runs deep. In Mumbai itself, only 1% of the 20 lakh pillion riders wear helmets. There seems to be this perception that while two-wheeler riders are safer wearing a helmet, their passengers don’t necessarily need one. Statistics prove otherwise. For instance, in Hyderabad, the Cyberabad traffic police reported that 1 of every 3 two-wheeler deaths was that of a pillion rider. DGP Chander, Goa, stressed that 71% of fatalities in road accidents in 2017 were of two-wheeler rider and pillion riders of which 66% deaths were due to head injury.

Despite the alarming statistics, pillion riders, who are as vulnerable as front riders to head-injuries, have never been the focus of helmet awareness and safety drives. To fill-up that communication gap, Reliance General Insurance has engineered a campaign, titled #FaceThePace, that focusses solely on pillion rider safety. The campaign film tells a relatable story of a father taking his son for cricket practice on a motorbike. It then uses cricket to bring our attention to a simple flaw in the way we think about pillion rider safety – using a helmet to play a sport makes sense, but somehow, protecting your head while riding on a two-wheeler isn’t considered.

This road safety initiative by Reliance General Insurance has taken the lead in addressing the helmet issue as a whole — pillion or front, helmets are crucial for two-wheeler riders. The film ensures that we realise how selective our worry about head injury is by comparing the statistics of children deaths due to road accidents to fatal accidents on a cricket ground. Message delivered. Watch the video to see how the story pans out.

Play

To know more about Reliance general insurance policies, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Reliance General Insurance and not by the Scroll editorial team.