Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Solution name.

Visual Object Recognition Aid

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

VORA creates innovative solutions for the visually impaired through a VORA App, wearable VORA devices, and premium downloadable VORA skills.

What specific problem are you trying to solve?

WHO estimates that around 1.3 billion people globally have some form of vision impairment, with 217 million experiencing moderate to severe vision loss. More people than ever before are currently affected by age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetes, and glaucoma, four primary contributors to vision impairment worldwide.

People with these visual impairments suffer from severe functional limitations and have difficulty with daily activities such as reading, walking, working, and recreation. They struggle to navigate their environment and require help for once simple tasks like finding their keys and shopping for groceries. Vision impairment can significantly contribute to physical suffering, loss of productivity, lack of self-confidence, and poor quality of life.  While traditional assistive devices like white canes and guide dogs can be effective for some visually impaired individuals, they may not be the best solution for everyone. One of the main limitations of these devices is that they can be costly. Training and maintaining a guide dog is expensive and not accessible for everyone. In addition, traditional assistive devices like white canes are often limited in their functionality, and may not provide assistance with other daily tasks such as reading, writing, or using technology. 

Therefore, it is important to create innovative solutions that are more affordable and versatile to help the visually impaired overcome daily challenges and improve their quality of life. These solutions should be designed with a feasible business model that can be accessible to reach a large population of visually impaired people.

Elevator pitch

What is your solution?

Our solution for visually impaired individuals includes the VORA mobile app, the VORA camera,  and the VORA skill marketplace.  

The VORA mobile app provides an accessible solution for the visually impaired community. It is designed with advanced voice recognition and object recognition technologies that allow it to understand and respond to user requests. It can recognize objects in front of the camera and then utilizes text-to-speech technology to announce the object's name and location through a speaker. The users interact with their environment and receive information about objects around them, making it easier for them to navigate and complete daily tasks. 

We developed the VORA camera as a specialized wearable device to improve ease of use for visually impaired individuals. It offers a range of features tailored to improve their experience and is designed with the specific needs of visually impaired users in mind, making it more user-friendly than traditional mobile apps. The camera provides enhanced object recognition, improved audio feedback, and intuitive navigation, making it more efficient for visually impaired people in their daily life. The goal is to provide a reliable and easy-to-use assistive technology solution that makes a difference in their daily lives.

We introduced the VORA skill market, a marketplace for third-party developers to create and sell new visual assistance skills as premium features for VORA camera users. It allows for greater customization and adaptability to users' unique needs, thus expanding the camera's capabilities and making it a more versatile solution for the visually impaired community. Additionally, we have introduced sponsored premium skills which are donated by corporations and made available for free download to users. This allows VORA to be more accessible to the visually impaired community and also helps us build partnerships with organizations that are dedicated to improving their lives.

Who does your solution serve? In what ways will the solution impact their lives?

A study by the Vision Loss Expert Group in 2015 found that a staggering 36 million people suffer from blindness, and an additional 217 million have medium to severe visual impairment. Among these individuals, one in five visually impaired people are unable to perform basic personal care activities due to their vision impairment. This not only causes physical suffering and a lack of independence but also leads to a significant reduction in overall quality of life. These numbers highlight the magnitude of the problem and the importance of developing effective solutions to assist the visually impaired. The VORA platform aims to make a real difference in the lives of visually impaired individuals by providing them with the technology they need to live more independently and improve their overall quality of life.

Currently, the visually impaired community primarily relies on traditional aids such as white canes and guide dogs for assistance in their daily lives. However, these traditional mechanisms are not without their limitations. White canes, while helpful in detecting obstacles, cannot detect mobile objects or out-of-reach hazards. Guide dogs, whilst more versatile and responsive, are costly to train and maintain and have a limited working lifespan.

Our team recognized the need for more advanced technology to help the visually impaired perform daily activities such as finding household items, identifying obstacles in their environment, and more. We sought to fill the gap between current-gen technology and traditional aids to empower visually impaired individuals to take care of themselves independently, without the need for constant assistance. This led us to develop VORA's platform, a cutting-edge assistive technology solution that utilizes advanced object recognition and other features to help the visually impaired navigate their daily lives with greater ease and independence.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

The VORA team created a business plan by leveraging the expertise and abilities of each member to steadily construct an effective product for the visually impaired. We work together to come up with a comprehensive solution that addresses the challenges faced by visually impaired individuals by combining different perspectives and expertise. Our understanding of computer vision, healthcare, and marketing enables us to make a unique solution that uses advanced technology and easy design to make the product helpful.

Katherine brings a wealth of experience to the VORA team, both in developing assistive aids and working with visually impaired individuals. Her firsthand experience with a visually impaired grandparent has given her a unique perspective on the struggles and dissatisfaction that many visually impaired individuals face with unintuitive devices. This personal experience has driven her to develop more intuitive and user-friendly assistive technology solutions that can truly make a difference in the lives of visually impaired individuals.

Melody brings a strong set of skills to the team. Her background in computer science and engineering is instrumental in developing the VORA camera's advanced object recognition capabilities. She has extensive experience in creating websites and writing apps. In addition,  she has practical experience in adapting deep-learning models for object recognition, which will be useful in creating a solution that is tailored to the specific needs of the target users of the VORA camera. Katherine and Melody's expertise in assistive technology and computer science will play a crucial role in the development and success of VORA's platform.

Richard brings a unique combination of education and experience to the team. His major in health science has given him a comprehensive understanding of the public health and healthcare industry, which provides a valuable perspective when developing solutions for those with visual impairment. Additionally, his experience as an eCommerce business owner has honed his skills in social media marketing, which he can utilize to effectively promote and market VORA's products. His diverse background in both healthcare and marketing makes him an ideal candidate to lead the team in business development and bring innovative solutions to the visually impaired community.

Since the completion of the app development and prototype design, the VORA team filed a provisional patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and presented the project at four major business innovation competitions. After winning first place in the 2021 Congressional App Challenge in California District 48, VORA was also selected to be a finalist in the 2022 Conrad Challenge. In April 2022, Katherine and Melody presented VORA’s innovative solution and business model at the summit of the 2022 Diamond Challenge. After two round presentations in front of a judging panel, VORA won first place in the business innovation track with a cash prize of $11,000 from Horn Entrepreneurship. In June, VORA was also awarded as one of the top 10 global winners in the 2022 Microsoft Imagine Cup Junior AI for Good Challenge. With the initial funding from Horn Entrepreneurship, Katherine, Melody, and Richard co-founded VORA Studio LLC in California in July 2022 and began the engineering design of the VORA camera prototype.

Each of VORA’s team members has their special skills and expertise. With their collective efforts, VORA Studio LLC will be able to fully develop an innovative solution to visual impairment and establish the visibility of the VORA brand in the assistive technology industry. The team's diverse background and experiences, along with the awards and recognition they received, are a testament to their commitment and dedication to improving the lives of visually impaired individuals. They aim to make a real impact in the assistive technology field and bring new solutions to help visually impaired people to live a more independent and comfortable life.

What steps have you taken to understand the needs of the population you want to serve?

In order to design the functionality of VORA products, the team first conducted extensive research to identify the main challenges faced by visually impaired individuals. This research included surveying and interviewing seniors with visual impairments at local senior centers. Through these discussions, it became clear that the ability to identify objects in their surroundings was a major issue for many visually impaired individuals. They reported difficulties with recognizing objects, identifying locations and directions, reading distant warnings and signs, and navigating between places.

With this information in hand, the team designed the user interface and core functions of the VORA app and camera specifically with the needs of visually impaired individuals in mind. To ensure the effectiveness of the app and device, the team then recruited 43 members of school coding clubs to test the VORA app and camera on a wide variety of commonly found indoor and outdoor objects. A table was created to record all test results, and thorough data analysis was conducted. The results indicated that the VORA app and camera were able to correctly identify 83% of real objects and provide simultaneous speech feedback. This data provided valuable insight into the performance of the VORA app and camera and helped the team make further improvements to the product.

After several modifications, we returned to the senior centers where we initially conducted the survey to test our app and camera with 90 seniors. They reported that both products were able to recognize over 80% of real-life objects accurately and were extremely helpful in identifying complex objects. However, they also noted that the VORA camera had some difficulties in recognizing irregularly shaped objects and suggested that further training of the object recognition model would be beneficial. Additionally, they suggested that VORA could become an even more advanced assistive aid if it were to incorporate traffic light recognition. This feedback helped us to further refine and improve our products to better meet the needs of the visually impaired community.

Which aspects of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Improving healthcare access and health outcomes; and reducing and ultimately eliminating health disparities (Health)

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Prototype: A venture or organization building and testing its product, service, or business model

In what city, town, or region is your solution team located?

Irvine, CA, USA

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Katherine Hua

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

VORA stands out for its innovative combination of assistive technology and unique business model. The platform is designed specifically to help the visually impaired, utilizing object recognition, text-to-speech, voice interaction, and other features. Additionally, it is an open platform that allows for new functionalities to be added through downloading new modules, allowing it to adapt to the needs of its users over time. This feature sets it apart from other assistive devices which usually have fixed functionality at the time of release and are not easily customizable or updatable.

VORA's business model is innovative in its use of free apps to acquire users. By making the initial access to the platform and its features available for free, it allows a wider audience to try out the platform without any financial barriers. This enables a larger user base. Secondly, the wearable VORA camera is sold for profit. This allows the company to generate revenue, which can be used to further develop and improve the platform. 

Thirdly, the VORA skill market is tailored specifically for the VORA camera, incentivizing third-party developers to create additional advanced features for VORA users. This allows for a constant stream of new and improved functionality to be added to the platform, which can be accessed by users via the skill market. This also creates a win-win situation for both the company and the third-party developers as the company can generate more revenue and the third-party developers can monetize their skills.

Additionally, to make VORA's premium skills more reachable and benefit as many visually impaired individuals as possible, the company proposes sponsored premium VORA skills. This is to encourage corporate sponsorship and donation to pay for the new skills published on the VORA skill market. This approach allows for the advanced features to be accessible to more people and helps to remove the financial barrier for those who may not be able to afford the premium skills. This way, the company can continue to invest in the development of the platform, while also making it available to more people who can benefit from it.

What are your impact goals for the next year, and how will you achieve them?

Our impact goals for the next year are to publish our VORA app in the app store, reach 1000 downloads and help 10 visually impaired in the first year. To accomplish our objective, we founded the VORA volunteer organization and created a registration website ( Our initiative has been well-received, resulting in many volunteer applications. Our team will collaborate with these volunteers to provide training on the VORA app usage and customer support, ensuring that visually impaired users can fully utilize the technology and gain the most benefit. We aim to utilize the VORA platform to provide assistance and improve the daily experiences of those with visual impairments. 

We will conduct regular surveys and gather feedback from our users to identify areas of improvement and make necessary updates to the app.  In parallel, we will continue to conduct research and development to enhance the algorithms and methods used for object recognition for the visually impaired population. This will include incorporating new and more advanced deep learning models and increasing the size of the training dataset used to improve accuracy. Once we get a large user base and identify key features that are most helpful for our users, we can make and commercialize a dedicated visual assistance device VORA camera to better serve the visually impaired. Our aspiration is that the VORA platform, in conjunction with traditional aids such as white canes and guide dogs, can bring about a transformative improvement in the daily experiences of individuals with visual impairments.

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

The VORA platform is a new technology solution that utilizes object recognition algorithms and deep learning models to aid visually impaired individuals in their daily lives. By using a combination of computer vision and machine learning, the VORA app is able to detect and identify objects in the user's environment, providing verbal descriptions through the device's speaker.

The technology behind VORA includes but is not limited to Computer Vision (CV),  Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), Text-to-Speech (TTS), and Natural Language Processing (NLP). VORA uses computer vision-based object detection algorithms to recognize and locate objects in the user's surroundings. These algorithms, powered by deep learning convolutional neural network models like YOLO or SSD, have been optimized for mobile devices and can process video frames in real time, making them practical for assistive use. VORA's object detection system continually improves its accuracy through deep learning techniques and additional training data from user feedback. 

The VORA software platform utilizes ASR and TTS as the main interface for user interaction. ASR is a technology that enables a program to process spoken language and convert it into written text. TTS is a technology that transforms written text into spoken language, widely used in virtual assistants and other speech-enabled devices to generate natural-sounding speech.

As advancements in object recognition technology continue to evolve, we have adopted an innovative business model that enables the integration of new functionalities via downloadable skill modules. We have opened up the VORA platform for third-party developers and actively encourage them to create new skills and monetize them through the VORA skill market. This approach aims to build an ecosystem of device manufacturers, third-party skill developers, volunteers, and corporate donors working together to make assistive devices more affordable and user-friendly for visually impaired individuals.

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Imaging and Sensor Technology
  • Software and Mobile Applications

How many people does your solution currently serve, and how many do you plan to serve in the next year? If you haven’t yet launched your solution, tell us how many people you plan to serve in the next year.

We are testing the VORA app and VORA prototype camera with 43 volunteers and 90 seniors. We plan to help 100 visually impaired in the first year and gather feedback from the users to identify areas of improvement and make necessary updates to the VORA platform.

What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year?

 We are having difficulty locating a sufficient number of visually impaired individuals who are willing to test our app and provide feedback. Additionally, we are facing challenges in terms of obtaining technology mentorship and understanding the complexity of developing and maintaining assistive technology. We have built the app and prototype device, but still need to finalize the engineering design of the VORA camera and determine the steps necessary to fully develop the VORA product line. Furthermore, there are concerns about legal barriers as regulations and guidelines for assistive technology are not clear, and there may be potential legal challenges regarding data privacy and security.

Your Team

How many people work on your solution team?

Katherine Hua and Melody Yu for Engineering, Richard Hua for Business Development

How long have you been working on your solution?

1.5 years

What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?

We established VORA Studio LLC with an initial seed fund of $11,000, which we received as the first-place prize in the business innovation track at the Diamond Challenge in 2022. With this funding, we have been able to lay the foundation for our company and begin developing our product line. We have also taken initiative to start volunteering for the visually impaired community and are actively seeking additional volunteers to join our cause. However, since our inception, we have not formed any partnerships with external organizations. By participating in the Solve Youth Innovation Challenge, we hope to connect with potential technology and funding partners who can help us to further advance and scale our product line.

Business Model

What is your business model?

VORA offers a range of products and services specifically tailored to meet the needs of visually impaired customers. The core offering is the VORA mobile app, which is a free, user-friendly application that is marketed to gain a large user base. The app is designed to assist visually impaired individuals by providing essential features that aid in navigation and daily tasks. In addition to the mobile app, VORA also sells dedicated wearable cameras at affordable prices to individual customers. These cameras are easy to use and have the ability to add more functionality through downloadable software modules from the VORA skill market. 

VORA charges its users for premium skills, which are additional features that are not included in the free version of the app. The company also generates additional revenue through donations or sponsorships from corporate donors and institutions such as government disability departments and non-profit organizations that aim to assist the visually impaired. These organizations donate funds to make certain premium skills available for free for users of VORA cameras to download and install. 

What is your path to financial sustainability?

With the financial support of our parents, we have successfully developed the VORA app and created a prototype of the VORA camera, equipped with features such as object recognition, speech recognition and text-to-speech synthesis. By participating in the Diamond Challenge, our team received an initial seed fund of $11,000 by winning first place in the business innovation track in 2022. We used these funds to establish VORA Studio LLC in California, file a provisional patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office, and continue working on improving the prototype of the VORA camera. To support our product development and business operation in the early stages, we plan to seek further funding from a combination of investment from tech venture capitalists and grants from organizations such as the NIH/NSF. 


In the long-term, VORA's revenue will be generated through the sale of dedicated VORA cameras and charging users a fee for downloading premium skills from the VORA skill market. In addition, VORA aims to generate revenue through licensing agreements with other companies and organizations in the assistive technology industry, allowing them to use our technology and integrate it into their own products and services. By diversifying our revenue streams and expanding our reach through partnerships and collaborations, VORA aims to make our products and services more accessible to those who need it, and increase our impact in the assistive technology industry.

Solution Team

  • Katherine Hua VORA, Woodbridge High School
  • Richard Hua VORA, BS in Global Health, University of Southern California
  • Melody Yu VORA, Sage Hill School
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