Student team wins gold at the Spark Awards

The student team of Jessica Kwon, Alexandra Weiner, Julius Stein, and Priyanka Pillai (all MDE ’24) won gold at the 2023 Spark Awards for Felt.

About Felt: There are over 15 million people in the world who have severe deafblindness. Most of these people have to rely on human translators to communicate. Even with a speech-to-braille reader, people with deafblindness often feel left out when they cannot understand the subtext, or underlying emotion, of a conversation or social setting. Through thorough research and testing, our team designed a three part system called Felt, which allows the wearer to understand the three components of conversation: presence, text, and subtext.

The armband would give haptic feedback to the wearer’s forearm on the different emotions of the conversation. The detachable braille reader on top of the sleeve is a speech-to-braille reader that conveys the text of the conversation. The pin, worn on the wearer’s chest and equipped with a camera and microphone, would detect emotion using computer vision and machine learning, as well as collect speech for the braille reader.

Felt is a student project from the 2022-2023 MDE studio, and the Spark awards are a project competition.

Award announcement:

Felt project prototype, showing the physical design from three angles

Felt lying on a flat surface, showing the armband and sensor