In light of the rising innovations in smart devices accommodating the disabled, Vietnamese startups are bracing to bring their products overseas
The burgeoning rise of technology has sparked the arrivals of many advanced digital applications that service the pragmatic needs of humankind. However, in that rapid growth, only a humble piece of it was attributed to rehabilitation technology, which exposes the dearth of devices that serve exclusively for the impaired
As the statistics at many leading hospitals in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City propose, there are over 100.000 patients who suffered from accidents that render them incapable of using their hands. This leads them to use prosthetic limbs to perform daily activities and also takes time for them to get used to using these devices. Empathizing the difficulties of the patients, Le Hoang Anh and his colleagues have undergone many research and experiments to finally bring to the table the advent of MultiGlass - a smart device that helps people with disabilities to use digital devices more conveniently and with less effort. After a while putting these devices in use, Le Hoang Anh and his team recognize a potential room for MultiGlass to be utilized in the taxi - ride-hailing sector.
MultiGlass - a smart communication device - is a combination of three notoriously advanced technologies: Multi Iris Recognition technology, IoT, and Artificial Intelligence, which helps taxi service providers to track the performance of their drivers by scanning and analyzing the activities of their eyes. If signs of sleepiness or not being of sound mind are detected, a pre-programmed system will automatically trigger a signal sent directly to a small electronic horn attached to the eyeglasses, which in turn produces a whistling sound to wake up the drivers and avoid any looming accident.
In the new version, Hoang Anh and his colleagues also upgraded the feature so that the drivers can use it on long-distance travel - an equally important issue. Because, according to the statistics from the Ministry of Transport, thousands of accidents each year are caused by drivers lacking of awareness due to insomnia, substance use, and many other attendant causes when driving long-distance. These smart eyeglasses are also compatible with a wider range of devices, from tablets, smart TVs, smartphones to smart homes.
MultiGlass is currently offered to the public at a relatively reasonable price, between the range of 700.000 - 1.150.000 VND each, making it accessible for virtually everyone.
Having won a National Prize in Informatics and also an International Prize in a Science-related Contest, Le Hoang Anh got accepted directly into the Faculty of Information Technology, University of Education - Da Nang University, but he eventually decided to quit school and started a company to challenge himself, as well as pursue his passion for technology.
We were fortunate enough to sit him down for a deep conversation, where he talked more about MultiGlass and shared many interesting but also very heart-warming stories behind this ambitious project.
Why did you choose to set forth on a project devoted to people with disabilities and later on, for safe driving, when both are very challenging fields even with the help of advanced technology?
I’m always passionate about technology and want to use the technology I have researched to create products that are useful for society and the community, especially people with disabilities - those who are inherently less fortunate in society.
In fact, in 2015, I paid many visits to some of my friends who had physical impairments. As I witnessed them all sweating and tussling with what was seemingly effortless for a normal person - using a computer, I immediately floated an idea: Why don’t I create a device that can help them use computers to connect with other people?
In the very first phase, MultiGlass’s primary target was people with disabilities. However, our team had spotted an ample potential for MultiGlass in counteracting traffic accidents, so we decided to explore the implementations of IoT and Artificial Intelligence in the field of Logistics. More specifically, we’ve developed and instilled Sleepiness Detection function into the device. With this new feature, we expect our product will help reduce severe traffic incidents caused by sleepiness, especially those operating long-distance drives, thus promoting safety driving among drivers.
The team also appreciates the humane value of the product, based on its practicality and utility instead of sales. Creating MultiGlass may be difficult at an early stage, but the features are gradually getting better and we're glad that we’ve acquired a base of trusted customers along the way.
There have been many similar projects which, unfortunately, did not have for themselves a happy ending. What did you learn from these projects? And what’s your outlook on the future of the field?
As for now, MultiGlass is in a niche market to resolve some specific problems in the Logistics industry. Therefore, we perceive other companies more as our friends, rather than foes. Our immediate focus is to develop and perfect our product, which is also a sustainable business model that our company is headed towards.
As for other products with outstanding features available in the current market, we’ll try to learn and gradually offer more advanced, convenient, easy-to-handle products, at the same time making sure the new products will meet customers’ demands. You know, it’s tough for people with impairments to function like a normal, able-bodied person, and coming up with a device that can help them live a “normal life” is by no means less challenging. But we’ve got big hopes. And reality has proved that we’ve improved parts of their lives and will continue doing it.
In retrospect, and in contemplating what I’m pursuing right now, I gradually realize that my contributions, even small, have somehow solved some basic needs of the less fortunate. This gives me the motivation to go beyond and create more useful products in the future.
When starting the project, what was your first challenge? How did you manage to overcome it, and what’ve you learned along the way?
In the early days, my colleagues and I were struggling so bad, due to the lack of capital, consultants, technical support, and even a clear business plan for our new product, which means, basically, we had to start everything from scratch.
And despite receiving zero fundings, we were so driven by the thought of wanting to create a product that benefits the whole community that we still kept high morale and worked really hard. Looking back, it was our unwavering perseverance that brought us the fruitful results that we are enjoying today. We participated and won high prizes at Techfest Vietnam 2019 - a world-class even for technology enthusiasts. We’re also honored to represent Vietnam in the upcoming Startup World Cup 2020 - an international arena for potential start-up companies to pitch their business ideas.
In your opinion, what are the trends in your field in the near future? How’s MultiGlass going to adapt to the trends?
I think the triad consisting of BlockChain, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence will be shaping the future of technology. These technologies are very broad, which makes it an arduous undertaking to integrate them into a specific product, such as MultiGlass. However, I still place my faith in the imminent success of our team.
In the near future, our company will do more research to provide the Iris Scan feature, which analyzes users’ irises condition using Blockchain, Big Data, and AI. These databases will be managed by the team and shared with many ophthalmic hospitals to treat eye disorders and diseases.
In November 2019, Le Hoang Anh attended the Asean Korea Startup 2019 event in South Korea and had successfully raised nearly millions of USD fundings for MultiGlass, he also signed a strategic business collaboration contract with SK Telecom - a giant telecommunication service provider in South Korea. This event has laid a firm cornerstone for Le Hoang Anh and his startup to expand its market outside the territory of Vietnam, like he said: “The driver-based market segment is very potential”.