TCD pair's disability app wins James Dyson Award

Dyson and awards founder James Dyson

Adrian Weckler

A new software solution that helps people with intellectual disabilities has won the Irish leg of the 2017 James Dyson Award.

Invented by two Trinity College graduates, Talita Holzer Saad and Robbie Fryers, WaytoB is a smartphone and smartwatch app that allows a carer to pre-programme set routes which users can then follow independently.

It achieves this using a simplified interface and turn-by-turn directions in the form of arrows and audio based on the user's orientation. The app also integrates walking instructions with public transport and allows the carer to live track the user's location, heart rate and battery usage.

Ms Holzer Saad is originally from Brazil while Mr Fryers is from Belfast. Both were mechanical engineering undergraduates at Trinity College Dublin

The product has undergone nine prototype versions, with a final product currently being trialled with six individuals who have Down Syndrome.

One of the triallists is 37-year-old Patrick O'Shea from Malahide, who has mild to moderate Down Syndrome and has been using the product on his smartwatch since the beginning of 2017.

His father says that Patrick would not be able to navigate certain routes without it. "Patrick is already reasonably independent and this app is really helpful in supporting this and making life easier," said Pat O'Shea.

"He already saves about 15 minutes to a regular local destination by using the app to take a shorter but trickier route. It will also be of major benefit when he goes on his weekly bus trip to Dublin City Centre. Instead of having to stay in the same area, we will be able to programme a number of routes that will easily guide him to different parts of town."

Ms Holzer Saad and Mr Fryers will now proceed to the international stage of the competition and will compete against students from 23 different countries to win the overall award and a prize of €35,000.

Dyson engineers will announce the top 20 finalists on September 28 and the overall global winner will be selected by James Dyson and announced at the end of October.