Over the phone, Andrew Bernas leaves the impression he’s a veteran Silicon Valley software engineer focused on worldwide social causes with a lot of heart.
He’s in fact a 16-year-old high school student, and he recently won first place in the AI for Social Impact category of the NVIDIA-supported AI at the Edge Challenge.
At Hackster.io — an online community of developers and hobbyists — he and others began competing in October, building AI projects using the NVIDIA Jetson Nano Developer Kit.
An Eagle Scout who leads conservation projects, he wanted to use AI to solve a big problem.
“I got the idea to use Jetson Nano processing power to compute a program to recognize handwritten and printed text to allow those who are visually impaired or disabled to have access to reading,” said Bernas, a junior at Palo Alto High School.
He was among 10 winners in the competition, which drew more than 2,500 registrants from 35 countries for a share of NVIDIA supercomputing prizes. Bernas used NVIDIA’s Getting Started With Jetson Nano Deep Learning Institute course to begin his project.
AI on Reading
Bernas’s winning entry, Reading Eye for the Blind with NVIDIA Jetson Nano, is a text-to-voice AI app and a device prototype to aid the visually impaired.
The number of people worldwide visually impaired — those with moderate to severe vision loss — is estimated to be 285 million, with 39 million of them blind, according to the World Health Organization.
His device, which can be seen in the video below, allows people to place books or handwritten text to be scanned by a camera and converted to voice.
“Part of the inspiration was for creating a solution for my grandmother and other people with vision loss,” said Bernas. “She’s very proud of me.”
DIY Jetson Education
Bernas enjoys do-it-yourself building. His living room stores some of the more than 20 radio-controlled planes and drones he has designed and built. He also competes in his school’s Science Olympiad team in electrical engineering, circuits, aeronautical and physics.
He plans to develop his text-to-voice prototype to include Hindi, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish. Meanwhile, he has his sights on AI for robotics and autonomy as a career path.
“Now that machine learning is so big, I’m planning to major in something engineering-related with programming and machine learning,” he said of his college plans.
NVIDIA Jetson Nano makes adding AI easier and more accessible to makers, self-taught developers and embedded tech enthusiasts. Learn more about Jetson Nano and view more community projects to get started.