During the first weekend of November, I had the chance to attend the University of Buffalo (UB) hackathon. This was a wonderful opportunity to mentor students, and I ended up learning about some of the amazing work they do. I even had the chance to mentor and interview the team behind the USD$1,000 cash prize-winning solution Vibe Check.
|Pictured: Vibe Check team members Michael Mu, Syed Rehman, and Aryan Pandey with Syed Ahmed. Fourth team member, Matthew Charland, is not photographed.|
What is Vibe Check?
Vibe Check is an application designed for one single purpose: helping those that are both blind and deaf. Currently, there are established systems like Braille and voice assistants that help the visually and hearing impaired. However, neither of these ways of communication work for someone who may be experiencing both impairments, which is what led team Vibe Check to create this unique solution.
Vibe Check was inspired by Haben Girma, the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School. When interviewing on national television, Haben needed an interpreter to help her communicate with the interviewer. The interpreter would type the words that others would say, and Haben would then read the text through a refreshable Braille display. With Vibe Check, Haben and anyone else with similar disabilities could significantly improve their ability to communicate with others on their own.
How Vibe Check works
Vibe Check is an app developed using Android Studio. The user interface (UI) for Vibe Check is fairly simple, with two buttons that each cover half of the screen. When the top button is pressed, it begins listening for a voice that can then be converted to text on the screen. The words are displayed so that the speaker can verify that their words were interpreted correctly. If their words were improperly interpreted, they can record their statement again. When ready, pressing the bottom button converts the displayed text into Morse code and the phone will vibrate out the displayed message.
Choosing Morse code was a conscious decision made by the team because it’s an established form of communication. Because of this, most people already understand the communication paradigm and can readily adapt to working with the application within a short period of time.
Additionally, if a text message is received, the app automatically collects and vibrates out the sender’s phone number and message, informing the owner about any texts that they receive.
The team also had time to implement a feature that enables received text messages to be automatically converted to Morse code to enable immediate interpretation by the user.
Attending the UB hackathon was an awe-inspiring opportunity to collaborate with students from universities across the country who are motivated to better the lives of others through code. If you’re feeling inspired, learn more about open source technologies, including AI, Java, Containers, and more, and get your hands on the code to jump-start your next project.