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How Eye-D is helping those suffering from visual impairment lead safe and confident lives

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A chance visit to the National Association for the Blind in 2012 for a CSR event offered Gaurav Mittal a peek into the lives of those suffering from visual impairment. He was surprised to see the members lead active lives despite their disability and perform mundane tasks confidently when assisted by the right technology.

“I was always drawn towards building technological solutions. The visit paved the way for an opportunity wherein I could channel my innovation, beyond my regular job,” says Gaurav.

Over the following years, Gaurav labored over the idea while working a nine-to-five job as an engineer. It wasn’t until 2015 that he tasted success with an app that was designed to help those with special needs.

“The app really struck a chord with users. And, I just had a small team of interns to assist me,” says Gaurav. As small as the success was, it was enough to convince Gaurav to turn an entrepreneur by developing assistive technology solutions and launching Eye-D.

“I decided to quit my job and jump into the venture full-time. I joined hands with my friend Vaibhav Asthana and started building a team,” he adds. The two were joined by Gaurav’s mother Subodh Mittal, who’s a social activist and has always inspired him to work for social change.

Stepping up to the challenge

Six years later, the team is making strides by developing artificial intelligence-based solutions to help those with visual impairment live more confident and dignified lives.

In 2016, the team launched the Eye-D Pro app that helps people with vision impairment complete daily tasks like reading a printed book or describing an object in front of them.

“What users need to do is to just pick up their phone and put it in front of the text or object they want to read or identify and the app translates the information into their language. The users can choose from 20+ languages,” explains Gaurav.

What sets the app apart is that it is accessible and affordable as it leverages the capabilities of a smartphone that’s easily available. “Our users don’t need different kinds of hardware tools like smart glasses or other wearables to use this app, unlike other solutions. The app has infinite possibilities for extension and additions,” said Gaurav.

Another product rolled out by the Eye-D team is the Eye-D Cam. It is a pair of smartglasses that the startup built as part of a pilot project in 2019 with the Barcelona City Council in Spain. “We plan on launching it in a year or two. It helps people with impaired vision walk outdoors with confidence and safely.”

At the same time, Eye-D faced its fair share of challenges before making a splash in the assistive technology sector.

For instance, Gaurav says the earliest challenge that his team faced was getting the target audience to empathise and try out a solution like Eye-D pro. “My family or I had never interacted with a visually challenged person. So, it took some interactions before I could get a grasp of the typical problems that they faced.”

A common challenge that most early-stage startups face is that of fundraising and things weren’t very different for the Eye-D team. “When I quit my job, I only had my savings to bank on. So, getting investors was another problem that we struggled with. There might be many grants and opportunities available for social startups today, but that wasn’t the case back in 2015,” he adds.

Driving last-mile impact with technology

The startup finally made a breakthrough when it was able to get funds from the Karnataka state government by participating in one of its schemes for startups. From there on, the startup went on to build a team, get its marketing right and expand. Today, Eye-D is catering to the needs of over 70,000 people with vision impairment in 160+ countries.

While looking back at his team’s journey, Gautam says that Eye-D’s success wouldn’t be possible without the contribution of several individuals, many of them interns, who helped the startup add new capabilities and fuel change with impactful solutions in assistive technology.

What helped Eye-D reach out to a wider audience was launching a website with a .in extension. The startup launched its official website in 2016 and chose a .in domain name as they were primarily targeting an Indian audience. “By opting for a .in extension, we were able to tell our users that we were an Indian brand. We weren’t sitting in another part of the world and building solutions for Indians. It told users that we were there to help them in case they needed to reach out to us.”

The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) has helped hundreds of businesses like Eye-D establish themselves as a brand with its .in or .Bharat domain — which is India’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). It’s among the few internet exchanges in the world to offer a ccTLD in multiple languages.

Gaurav feels that a .in domain name can help a brand boost customer trust in the local market. Plus, it helped the team build a user-friendly website that could be accessed even by those suffering from vision impairment. “We continued with a .in domain name even when we launched our global operations. It’s like building from India for the world. The website helped us gain global exposure,” says a beaming Gaurav.

Shedding light on how a in.extension arms budding startups with a unique tool to compete with bigger organisations, Gaurav states, “By choosing a .in extension a brand is able to create a perception in the consumers’ minds that it is a local player and understands their problems.”

Building a local brand with an international reach

According to Gaurav, the biggest advantage of a .in domain name is that it offers a personalised experience. “When we launched our website, we thought the only way that it would help us is by boosting our community presence. But, thanks to ambitious campaigns like ‘Make in India’ and other government initiatives, the domain name has visibility even outside India. It is surprising to see how it has enabled us to gain an international clientele’s trust,” he explains.

For a startup that’s majorly dependent on grants, the COVID-19 pandemic posed a tough time for Eye-D as fundraising opportunities decreased due to a challenging business landscape. Gaurav says that Eye-D was able to power through the crisis due to teamwork. “The team stepped up. Some employees also took salary cuts, which we were able to reimburse later. We shifted to remote working and online meetings to cut costs. But, we ended up doing much better as we raised more funding during the pandemic year.”

As technology-based solutions make inroads into the lives of those with special needs, startups like Eye-D have their work cut out for them. The Eye-D team believes that over the next few years artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to play a major role in making assistive technology more accessible for those living with visual impairment.

Talking about Eye-D’s future plans, Gaurav says that his team is working on adding new features to the Eye-D Pro app to enable more visually impaired persons to attend schools and colleges.

“We are trying to build impactful solutions that can boost inclusive education and financial independence among those who suffer from visual impairment. These features would help them land better jobs and contribute to the country’s economy,” he adds.

The Shaping India Inc’s Online Growth series chronicles the journeys of startups and SMEs in India and how creating an online presence on the .in or .Bharat domain powered their success stories.


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Identity in the metaverse: Creating a global identity system

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With the advent of the metaverse, the need for a global identity system has become apparent. There are many different ways to create an identity in the metaverse, but no single system is universally accepted. 

The challenge is usually two-fold: first, how to create an identity that is accepted by all the different platforms and services in the metaverse, and second, how to keep track of all the different identities a person may have.

There are many proposed solutions to these challenges, but no clear consensus has emerged. Some believe that a single, global identity system is the only way to ensure interoperability between different platforms and services. Others believe that multiple identities are necessary to allow people to maintain their privacy and security.

The debate is ongoing, but it is clear that the need for a global identity system is becoming more urgent as the metaverse continues to grow.

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In this article, we will explore the various options for creating a global identity system in the metaverse. We will discuss the pros and cons of each option, and try to identify the best solution for the future.

Option 1: A single global identity

The simplest solution to the problem of identity in the metaverse is to create a single, global identity system. This would be a centralized system that would be responsible for managing all identities in the metaverse. 

The advantages of this approach are obvious: It would be much easier to keep track of identities, and there would be no need to worry about different platforms and services accepting different identities. In addition, a centralized identity system would allow for better security and privacy controls, as well as the ability to track identity theft and fraud.

However, this approach also has several disadvantages. First, it would be very difficult to create a global identity system that is accepted by everyone. Also, a centralized system would be vulnerable to attack and could be used to track people’s movements and activities. Third, it would be difficult to protect the privacy of users in a centralized system.

Option 2: Multiple identities

Another solution to the problem of identity in the metaverse is to allow each person to have multiple identities. This would mean that each person could have one or more identities that they use for different purposes. 

One of the main advantages of this approach is that it would allow people to maintain their privacy and security. Each person could choose which identity to use for each situation, and they would not have to worry about their entire identity being exposed. In addition, this approach would be more resilient to attack, as it would be much harder to take down multiple identities than a single one.

The limitations of such an approach would be that it could be difficult to keep track of all the different identities, and there would be no guarantee that different platforms and services would accept all of them. In addition, multiple identities could lead to confusion and could make it more difficult for people to build trust with others.

Option 3: A decentralized identity system

A third solution to the problem of identity in the metaverse is to create a decentralized identity system. This would be an identity system that is not controlled by any one centralized authority but rather is distributed among many different nodes. 

This might seem like the ideal approach, since decentralization is a common theme in the metaverse. However, there are still some challenges that need to be overcome. For instance, it would need to be ensured that all the different nodes in the system are properly synchronized and that the system as a whole is secure. In addition, it might be difficult to get people to adopt such a system if they are used to the more traditional centralized approach.

One solution would be to get the nodes in the system to be run by different organizations. This would help to decentralize the system and make it more secure. Another advantage of this approach is that it would allow different organizations to offer their own identity services, which could be more tailored to their needs.

Another would be to incorporate an edge computing solution into the system. This would allow for more decentralized processing of data and could help to improve performance. It would also make the system more resilient to attack since there would be no centralized point of failure.

The best solution for the future of identity in the metaverse is likely to be a combination of these approaches. A centralized system might be necessary to provide a basic level of identity services, but it should be supplemented by a decentralized system that is more secure and resilient. Ultimately, the goal should be to create an identity system that is both easy to use and secure.

The ideal identity standards of the metaverse

Now that we have explored the various options for identity in the metaverse, we can start to identify the ideal standards that should be met by any future global identity system. 

It is no easy task to create a global identity system that meets all of the criteria, but it is important to strive for an ideal solution. After all, the metaverse is still in its early stages, and the decisions made now will have a lasting impact on its future. 

Current iterations of the metaverse have used very traditional approaches to identity, but it is time to start thinking outside the box. The ideal solution will be one that is secure, private, decentralized, and easy to use. It will be a solution that allows people to maintain their privacy while still being able to interact with others in the metaverse. 

Most importantly, it will be a solution that can be accepted and used by everyone. Only then can we hope to create a truly global identity system for the metaverse.

The bottom line on identity in the metaverse

The question of identity in the metaverse is a complex one, but it is an important issue that needs to be addressed. 

The challenges associated with creating an implementation that is secure, private and decentralized are significant, but they are not insurmountable. For one, it will be important to get buy-in from organizations that have a vested interest in the metaverse. These organizations can help to promote and support the adoption of identity standards. 

It is also important to keep in mind that the metaverse is still evolving, and the solution that is ideal today might not be ideal tomorrow. As such, it will be critical to have a flexible identity system that can adapt as the needs of the metaverse change. 

Ultimately, the goal should be to create an identity system that is both easy to use and secure. Only then can we hope to create a truly global identity system for the metaverse.

Daniel Saito is CEO and cofounder of StrongNode

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How to Eliminate Scheduling Inefficiencies in Your Business

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What do salons, consultancies, and home service providers all have in common? This question may seem like the prime setup for a joke, but there’s no punchline to look forward…

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Why You Should Start a Business Only While You Have a Job

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many people that I meet tell me that they dream of starting their own . I always ask them, “Then why don’t you?” They typically respond by saying that they have so many financial and personal responsibilities, that they can’t just quit their job to start a company, etc. Then I tell them my story …



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Related: How to Use Your Current Job to Start Your Next Business

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