Barbara Leporini she is a born scientist from Lucca visually impaired. Up to 18 years of age she, thanks to that residual vision of hers, she manages to do everything by herself, making the most of the vision that she has. “Even if I couldn’t reread what I wrote down, I always preferred to write by myself rather than use braille – she explains researcher of the Cnr-Isti -. For me the draft did not exist, everything was cast. Instead, they helped me with reading”. As if to say that unexpected virtues can be drawn from enormous difficulties. And the results are indeed coming. Until, one morning, a problem with the cornea causes a total detachment of the retina. Barbara becomes completely blind 4 months after the final exam. Difficulty becomes a spring to react and accomplish the feat. He graduates with honors and decides what his life will be computer science.
From that moment, this Tuscan researcher begins the climb to wall of prejudices that bind women to technical-scientific subjects. All aggravated by the visual impairment. “I wanted to prove that I could do it despite the blindness complete. The difficulty was finding accessible material for me. At the time it was much more difficult because there weren’t the tools we have now”. The support of the family is essential to win the challenge of him. “They told me: at the most they will reject you, as happens to anyone”. Thus, mother Emanuela turns into her eyes and begins to read everything to her: texts, formulas, numbers, cards, columns, tables, algorithm diagrams. She graduates with honors and ongoing. Which is not common for scientific courses.
The Self-lens to read labels and order products at the supermarket
The doctorate first and then the competition lead her, despite the difficulties, to create inventions involving her both as a researcher and as an end user.
“It wasn’t easy – says Barbara – they put me in difficulty for the doctorate. I did the homework before the deadlines but there wasn’t always a sensitivity towards me”. Thus we find it among the inventors of self lensa device that allows the blind to light the information about product labels and order them at the supermarket directly from home, without turning on the PC or using the smartphone. The idea comes from the work of a technical table made up of Cnr, I.Ri.Fo.R Toscana of the Uici and the Edi Group company of Bibbiena (Ar), and coordinated by Leporini of the Cnr-Isti. “Thanks to a pilot project, a first experiment will soon be carried out” says Barbara.
Usage is simple. You tip it instrument, with a data sim inside, on the product packaging. The video camera of the device frames the can and reads the barcode and Qr code. A synthetic voice will read the brand, expiry date and cost and will give other information to the user who can directly send a purchase request to the supermarket. At this point the order is memorized by the store’s database which will arrange for home delivery. “There is also l’app obviously, but the device is simpler to use and does not require a smartphone – explains Leporini -. There are people, for example the elderly, who may find such a device particularly convenient. A few simple buttons that allow you to use it quietly”.
The atypical OCCAM-NVI multifunction glasses and the light detector for consumption
But the invention to which this Tuscan researcher is most closely linked is the OCCAM-NVI multifunction haptic eyewear. An aid to detect locate obstacles, acquire information about your surroundings and how to reach a destination. “There is already a prototype which, based on the intensity of the vibrations, makes us guess the distance from the obstacle and the directions based on the positions on the glasses – says the CNR researcher -. The signal vibrates because when you are out, the blind person must use the ear canal to perceive the surroundings and other sounds may not be perceived”. This invention allows you to leave your hands free while moving.
Another invention of Barbara Leporini is the light detector to keep an eye on consumption. “A lonely and blind person has the problem of knowing if the lights can be turned on or off – explains Leporini -. There are devices on the market and apps but they are not practical. So we made a small circuit that is inserted into a switch in the room, intercepts the flow of current and when the light is turned on it emits a beep. It would solve the problem for many people, it is practical and could also be installed in public buildings and hotels”. In short, if we have smarter technologies and greater digital accessibility we should also say thanks to the tenacity of this researcher from Lucca.