A recent graduate of the University of Bath, Andrew Taylor was the winner of the Blackwood Design Awards 2017/18 in the Best New Concept category.


In a recent conversation with Andrew, we discussed his winning invention which aims to help people who are visually impaired.


Can you explain how your winning entry works?


“It’s a device which looks like a pair of running glasses with some differences. It’s got a built-in camera, a processor, a battery and finally, conduction headphones. We are focusing on track running which is standard for 400m running track.


The camera can see the track in front of the user and captures a live video of the athlete’s lane. An algorithm then calculates the user’s current position within their target direction and lane. This information is converted to an audio signal which is a beep noise which appears to originate from in front of the user. By following the direction of the beep, the user is guided around the running track.



What inspired you to design the headset?


“In 2016 during the Paralympics, I started to think about this product when I was watching some visually impaired running event and I decided to design a product to help. I’ve always been interested in designing products for people with disabilities because they have a unique set of requirements, so I created this product to see how technology could be used to meet their requirements.”



How did you hear about the Blackwood Design Awards?


“My former university professor introduced me to the competition and I did a little research on Blackwood as well as previous winners. I was really encouraged to enter the competition after discovering all the success stories.”



Can you tell us about the day of the final? What it was like waiting to be called and giving your presentation?


“It was a mix of nerves and excitement. I had put a lot of hard work into my presentation to the judges, and while I knew my concept was well thought out, I was anxious to make sure I showed off the idea in the best possible way. Paul from bespoken had put in a lot of work before hand, making sure I knew what to expect on the day, the timings and checking there were no technical issues in advance, which helped things go smoothly. After the presentation, I felt much more relaxed - the judges responded very positively to what they had seen, and their feedback was engaging and insightful. The 10-minute question and answer session really flew by - I wish I had had more time for this discussion.”



What feedback did you get from the judges?


“It was absolutely fantastic, it was good to hear the feedback from the judges which was very helpful for me and during the Q&A section of the presentation, they came up with a number of comments which really helped me to think about ideas and applications for the product. It was good to get confirmation from people who have been working in this industry for long time and who are experts.”



So what’s next for your design?


“It’s still too early a stage to bring the design to market but I got advice from the judges about charities to get in touch with to let them know about the prototype. Friends and some of my colleagues at university have tested it and I have been trying it quite a lot too. I would really like people with visual impairments to test it next.”



How has the prize money helped you?


“The prize money really helped me with the development of the product so I’m setting up the second version of the prototype which will hopefully allow full testing with people who are visually impaired. After the next stage of testing is complete I want to refine the design and look for suitable manufactures of various components. I also want to make the software open source so anyone could buy this product and then use it for whatever need they have.”



How does your design give people more independence?


“Currently a lot of people use guide runners and there could be problems with the availability of the guide so hopefully being able to replace the role of guide runners will open up the opportunity for many more people with a visual impairment to enjoy sports. The dream for me is for the product to be used in the Paralympics games and give people the confidence to perform just as well if not better.”



What does winning the Blackwood Design Awards mean to you?


“The Blackwood Design Award was a highly engaging and rewarding experience for me. When I found out I had been selected for the final I was very excited. Hearing positive feedback from people with experience designing for users with disabilities confirmed my belief that my concept has a lot of potential. It also motivated me to develop my idea as much as possible for the final and highlight the key steps in my design process during my presentation.


Blackwood has been a great inspiration to me. I’d like to thank them for their guidance and also thank the judges for their feedback.”

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Fab story - and great to hear from a participant's point of view! :-)


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