“Some people were emotional after they tried our device,” remarks Rob Quinn, a co-founder of MakeSense Technology – speaking from his parent’s garage in Bromley surrounded by a 3D printer, lathe and milling machine.
Rob is describing how visually impaired volunteers have been impressed by a hand-held navigation tool he has helped to create known as Magic Torch that uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to provide turn by turn directions; a concept that is very similar to using a guide dog.
“We weren’t sure until we tested it how blind people would react,” he adds. “If it didn’t work, I would have blown my life savings. But luckily the opposite was true, blind volunteers have found it easier to interpret than sighted volunteers.”
Rob is still far from realising his dream of marketing his innovation globally. But he has come a long way from living in an abandoned building in Brixton for three years to save up enough funds to take 12 months out to develop the concept. Rob graduated with a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College in 2021 and is an honorary visiting researcher in the Intelligent Systems and Sub-Systems research group at Imperial. He has since teamed up with lecturer and co-founder Ad Spiers and their company has recruited two further members of staff.
MakeSense Technology received £30,000 of financial support from Connected Places Catapult just over a year ago, as part of the Transport Research & Innovation Grants programme backed by the Department for Transport. Rob answered an open call for small to medium sized companies with bright ideas to come forward to receive help for developing commercial proposals. The company has since secured £150,000 of support from four high net worth ‘angel investors’.