Holman Prize awarded to student helping the visually impaired reach for the stars

4 Sep 2019

A University of Queensland student is the first Australian to be awarded the Holman Prize for his work in developing an app to help the visually impaired navigate the stars and planets in our solar system.

Information Technology and Electrical Engineering student Yuma Decaux fell in love with space at the age of seven, but after losing his own sight in 2009 he could no longer look up and take in the skies.

“Today, there are myriad tools, software and apps that provide a clear view of the sky and its stars and planets,” he said.

“They’re probably really cool, but they haven’t been designed with accessibility for the blind.

“So I took to the task of creating an app that covers this – for me and all other blind users who have the same interest and curiosity for what shines above our heads 24 hours a day."

Yuma is working with a team of scientists who are experts in a wide range of fields, from asstrophysics to terrestrial radio operators, to further develop his app called AstreOS.

“I designed it so the user can obtain what is called an ‘ephemeris’ or astronomical information about an object in the solar system,” he said.

“I did this by using NASA's data as well as providing multiple earth data maps representing various dynamic and non-dynamic graphs of satellite surveys.

"It is an honour to receive this award for my work and I hope to help advance inclusivity and innovation at my level.

"My ultimate goal is to have a blind astronomer discover an exoplanet through sound, by using the app."

Yuma DecauxHe previously won the Brisbane leg of the Nasa Space App Challenge with the app concept.

Yuma said he lost his sight suddenly, and had to adapt to his new circumstances, from finding his way with a cane to brushing his teeth.

Yuma is the co-founder of Oseyeris, a startup company working to merge leading edge robotics with elegant design to create technology for the visually impaired.

Oseyeris is a graduate start-up of UQ’s ilab Germinate program - a startup acceleration program which helps UQ students and alumni achieve startup success through support and funding.

Media: UQ Communications, Paige Ashby, p.ashby@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3365 8525.