Helping the Blind to "See"

Praveen Kakumanu, '06 Ph.D. Computer Science and Engineering

Praveen KakumanuThe scientific terms are “assistive technologies and biometrics,” but what they mean is that Praveen Kakumanu is interested in what we sound like and what we look like.

His post-doctoral work at WSU centers on developing software programs and models to detect faces and recognize facial expressions such as laughter or anger.

Kakumanu received his Ph.D. in computer science and engineering last June from Wright State, working with Nikolaos Bourbakis, Ohio Board of Regents Distinguished Professor of Information Technology, in the development of a prototype device to help the blind “see.”

The system incorporates tiny cameras attached to a pair of glasses and a head-set connected to a portable laptop carried by the visually impaired individual. The system identifies the images “seen” by the camera and converts this to audio information the subject hears through the headset.

“This project makes it possible to efficiently conduct such daily tasks as reading books or newspapers and even initiating conversations. It improves independent mobility and social interaction,” said Bourbakis, who has been involved in computer engineering eye research for 20 years.

The work by Kakumanu involves biometrics, an emerging field in information technology devoted to the identification of individuals using biological traits, such as those based on iris scanning, fingerprints, or face recognition.

While Kakumanu’s work concentrates on aiding the blind, numerous other applications exist for assistive technology involving recognition systems. These vary from surveillance cameras and personal identification to military target recognition and checking visitor passes at Disney World. Such fields as banking, investing, retail sales, law enforcement, and health services are involved.

Kakumanu received his bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from Nagarjuna University in India, and also holds a master’s degree from Wright State.