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Straits Times: Innovations to Help Ageing Population Receive Seed Funding

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Straits Times recently published a story about the business selected as finalists in the Modern Aging accelerator program. Read the original post here or the original by journalist Ng Huiwen, below.

Senior citizens with visual disabilities could soon get help to “read” while wearing a ring on their finger.

Using the FingerReader, they can simply point at words or items and listen to the results through a headset, which is linked to the ring by a cloud platform.

On Friday (Nov 24), the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) researchers behind the device were awarded $25,000 in seed funding.

They were among the top three teams recognised at Modern Aging Singapore 2017, which is an accelerator programme aimed at developing innovative solutions for the ageing population.

The programme, which is now in its third run, is organised by Access Health International and NUS Enterprise.

NUS Enterprise is the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore.

 “The FingerReader aims to deliver independence to the visually impaired community, who currently rely on caregivers to read information to them, or bulky, obvious devices, such as magnifiers,” said SUTD researcher Roger Boldu.

This could benefit elderly with conditions such as macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetes and retinopathy.

Mr Boldu and his team hopes to invest the seed funding to commercialise the device and bring it to the market by end of 2018 at a price of about US$1,000 ($1,340).

They have already incorporated a company, ZuZu Labs, to license the technology.

Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor attended the Modern Aging Singapore award ceremony on Friday, where she got the chance to listen to the top teams pitch their ideas.

In her opening speech, she said that the programme is an “excellent example” of the type of innovation needed to build an inclusive society.

Since it started in 2015, the programme has received close to 200 business ideas, with a total of $225,000 awarded to five teams to date.

She said that the notion of ageing differs from the past.

“Singaporeans are living longer and healthier lives… ‘modern ageing’ is thus not a challenge for us, but an opportunity. With better health and opportunities to age gracefully, our ‘silver’ citizens will be a productive force for good in our society,” she said.

The top team at this year’s event went to Mobearlize, which has developed an add-on device to transform an ordinary wheelchair to a motorised one.

They beat over 50 teams who applied for the programme and were awarded $50,000.

Anna Dirksen

Anna Dirksen

Anna Dirksen is Director of Communications at ACCESS Health International and leads the global communications strategy for the organization.

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