Innovative solutions to allow visually impaired football fans experience matches in real time and those with disabilities to participate in video games have been honoured at Engineers Ireland’s Innovative Student Engineer and Graduate Engineer of the Year Awards, sponsored by Siemens.

Third-level engineering students David Deneher and Tim Farrelly of Trinity College Dublin and Omar Salem of Queens University Belfast were awarded the Innovative Student Engineer of the Year Award title, sponsored by Siemens for their Field of Vision device which allows visually impaired football fans to experience football matches in real time, without relying solely on a commentator’s interpretation.

Field of Vision utilises an advanced computer vision model to allow those with a visual impairment to experience the speed and energy of sports matches using a touch-based handheld device. The device is portable, and battery powered, with WiFi, Bluetooth and 5G connectivity allowing it to be used in any scenario. 

By using artificial intelligence to analyse live video feeds of games, Field of Vision translates what’s happening on the field to a tablet device through ‘haptic feedback’. This immersive experience allows the user to better visualise the game.

The student team is currently engaged in a pilot programme with Bohemians F.C. and will be conducting their first tests with visually impaired users in the coming months. The team has also received interest from Premier League clubs and the Qatar World Cup organisers, who are awaiting results from these trials. The pitch on the top surface of the device can be changed from football to other sports, enabling these innovative engineering students to expand their offering to more field sports fans in the near future.

The Innovative Graduate Engineer of the Year Award, also sponsored by Siemens, was presented to Brandon Blacoe, a UCD Masters Graduate of Electronic Engineering, and partners Eibhlin O’Riordan and Ronan Murphy for their accessible and customisable video game controllers.

The graduates developed The Proteus Controller, the first fully modular controller that lets users play video games with any OS, Android, Windows or Xbox device having witnessed how many controllers could not be used by those with disabilities due to their shape or need to use both hands. The new modular device allows gamers to create their own controller, suitable to their needs, and have tested their design with gamers all over the world.  The customisable controller will be available to purchase via ByoWave’s beta launch this October.

The winners were announced at the competition final on Friday afternoon, where they were joined by finalists Cian Dalton of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Mia Brzakovic of Trinity College Dublin and Kings College London and Barry Mulvey of University College Dublin. 

Congratulating the third-level student and graduate teams, Gary O’Callaghan, Chief Executive of Siemens, commented: “Siemens is proud to partner with Engineers Ireland to provide a unique platform for Ireland’s most innovative engineering students and graduates. Each project showcased by our talented student and graduate engineer finalists today has demonstrated innovation, creative thinking, technical excellence, and hard work. 

“On behalf of Siemens, I would like to offer a warm congratulations to all of the finalists, and particularly the Field of Vision and ByoWave teams who were presented with the accolade of Innovative Student Engineer of the Year and Innovative Graduate Engineer of the Year, respectively. I have every confidence that our winners and those shortlisted for today’s final will enjoy great success in their respective careers ahead,” Mr O’Callaghan added.

Caroline Spillane, Director General of Engineers Ireland added: “Each of our finalists demonstrated ingenuity, developing clever solutions to overcome challenges in industry and society. In particular I offer my congratulations to the Field of Vision and ByoWave teams for developing engineering solutions focused on issues relating to accessibility. I look forward to seeing the success of these exciting products as they come to market, including to football stadia, supporting greater accessibility for all.”

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