Meenakshi Balakrishnan

ACM Fellows

India - 2021


For contributions to system-level design, embedded systems and assistive technologies for the visually impaired

Press Release

ACM Eugene L. Lawler Award for Humanitarian Contributions within Computer Science and Informatics

India - 2018


For research, development and deployment of cost-effective embedded-system and software solutions addressing mobility and education challenges of the visually impaired in the developing world.

Prof. Balakrishnan is a leading researcher and teacher who has devoted more than a decade to developing cost-sensitive, embedded-system and software solutions that address the mobility and education challenges of the visually impaired in India. His ASSISTECH Lab at IIT Delhi tackles these hard cost-constrained problems through interdisciplinary work spanning computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and product design and takes the solutions to real-world success. The lab attracts a large number of students including visually impaired researchers, delivering tremendous educational value by training them in the full cycle of such solutions.

The most visible of successes is the SmartCane project which provides an add-on to the white cane with the capability of detecting above-knee/hanging obstacles within a distance of 3m using ultrasonic ranging and conveying the obstacle distance using vibrations. He has worked innovatively on this project, interfacing with non-profits, government agencies and for-profits across national boundaries to bring this to the market at less than -5% of the cost of comparable devices in the west. Within India he has made over 70,000 devices available through Government schemes and 45 partner agencies. This project has won numerous awards at the national level, as well as a Best Paper Award at the International Conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Persons (TRANSED) 2010.

Other key mobility and education products from ASSISTECH include OnBoard a device for enabling boarding of public buses by the visually impaired and the recently launched affordable Braille laptop (DotBook). To provide access to STEM education among the visually impaired, the laboratory has developed the know-how and established a non-profit startup (Raised Lines Foundation) for production of affordable tactile diagrams. Ongoing research projects include Mobility Assistant for Visually Impaired (MAVI) and Reading Assistant for Visually Impaired (RAVI).

Press Release

ACM Senior Member

India - 2009