While wearables such as smart glasses seem to be the next big thing for video conferencing and other augmented reality applications, a student team from IIITH has created a novel twist by using them in the context of home automation. It won them the second runners-up place and a Rs35,000 cash award at the innovation competition held at IIT Bombay Techfest.
Student-led clubs on campus in the pursuit of fun and extra-curricular interests are not novel. But when some members of a club make waves at an inter-collegiate tech festival and walk away with a coveted prize, it’s news-worthy. Third year BE students Rishabh Agrawal, Aditya Sehgal, Tadimarri Desika Sreeharsha and Akshit Gureja – all members of the Electronics and Robotics Club – participated in the Home Automation Event organised by Atomberg Technologies at IIT Bombay’s Techfest between 16th and 18th December, 2022. They had to “imagine one aspect of a home from 2030 and create its prototype which can be implemented in today’s life”. With examples of gesture-controlled fans and lights, smart locks allowing for keyless entries, smart kitchen appliances such as mixer grinders that use machine learning to be able to grind chutneys and batters automatically and smart heavy electronic appliances that operate optimally with the help of IoT-enabled sensors, participants were encouraged to come up with novel ideas that are better than existing solutions addressing the same problem.
Smart Glasses Home Ecosystem
“We proposed the smart glasses ecosystem,” says Akshit Gureja, Events Head of the Electronics and Robotics Club (ERC). Explaining their intention, he says, “The idea was not to buy smart devices but to make current devices smart by replacing the traditional switchboard with our hub which can be controlled via the smart glasses.” The team’s winning solution therefore comprises of a pair of smart glasses equipped with a built-in display to showcase multiple options for the user along with a button on one of the temples to help in scrolling. The receiving side consists of a smart hub that controls multiple devices in the home setting such as lights, fans and others. “This smart hub was based on a retrofit model where the user has simply replaced the old traditional switchboard with this hub. In addition to this, we built a companion app to modify options on the smart glasses, like adding or removing devices,” elaborates Akshit.
With the home automation industry rapidly evolving and new products streaming into the market every day, the team’s biggest challenge was to come up with something entirely novel. But with that aspect taken care of, they were then confronted with the vagaries of physical real estate. “While building the wearable prototype, it was particularly demanding to hold all the electronics in the limited space afforded by the smart glasses,” says Rishabh Agarwal, adding that they had to select the components such that all the requirements were met while occupying as minimal space as possible. “We also had to distribute the weight equally on both the left and right temples so that the smart glasses were comfortable to wear and not too heavy on any one side,” chips in Aditya Sehgal. Terming these challenges as learning opportunities, Sreeharsha muses that it prompted them to think and develop a better prototype.
The club was created with the aim of not only promoting creative thinking in the domain of hardware, robotics and IoT but also giving the students a hands-on experience with the same, by building interesting projects and taking part in various competitions. For the hands-on expertise, Akshit notes that the club conducts various workshops to teach different tools and build projects. “Robotics is as much hardware as it is software and coding, so some of our team members hold interests in programming as well as computer vision. They are a part of the Programming Club and the Open Source Development group on campus,” he observes before hastily dismissing being typecast as geeks. “Our club members are multi-talented, for instance, our marketing head is an amazing dancer and is part of the Dance Crew, our Design Head is fascinated by Astronomy and is part of that club. Some others are avid designers and painters and part of the Art Society, there are photographers, sportspersons and content writers too. I am interested in entrepreneurship and hence also a part of the E-cell organization,” remarks Akshit.
The IIT Bombay Techfest has been the first competition that the ERC participated in Post-Covid. “We’re focussing on participating in many more this year”, smiles Akshit.