Sohan Dharmaraja is no stranger to either innovation, invention, or the startup industry. He completed his Masters in Optimisation Theory at MIT, then went on to do his doctorate in Computational Mathematics at Stanford. He’s worked as a quantitative analyst, a strategist, has started companies, and is the current CEO of a startup accelerator. Basically, Sohan has been very busy.
It is hard to single out any one thing that Sohan has done, but the thing he is perhaps best known for started while he was an engineering doctoral candidate at Stanford. While looking for a project, he visited the Stanford Office of Accessible Education which helps visually challenged students with their studies. It was there that he saw the Brailler ‒ a computer that the blind use to type. The Brailler was expensive, and very narrow in function. It was then that he got the idea to create a way for a person to type in Braille on a flat screen, like a tablet computer.
Sohan teamed up with a Stanford associate professor to create a prototype flat-screen device that can be used to type braille. While the prototype took two months to create, it was years before the app was fully functional. iBrailler Notes is now available to the world on the iPad. To start taking notes, users simply hold their fingertips anywhere on the screen of the iPad and the app draws keys around the fingers. If the user loses their hand position, they simply lift their hands off the screen and put it down again, and the app recalibrates the keyboard. The app also includes features like undo and redo (which have to be cleverly done since there are no visual menus) and supports multiple braille formats, including math and scientific forms.
If that wasn’t sufficient, Sohan designed an app for an Android developer challenge that allows trilingual chatting. Users simply hand write the letters on the screen and the app matches it to symbols, allowing users to communicate in any of the three languages. The app also allows them to post in Sinhalese or Tamil to social media platforms.
Sohan then moved on to a new venture – SocialRoo – an analytics company that uses big data mining and sophisticated tools to draw out trends and create strategies for organisations based on what social data indicates. He is also the CEO of Neotenicity, Sri Lanka’s first startup accelerator.
Sohan has set himself firmly in the realm of innovation. If you want to be part of this, or if you think you have the next big idea, stay tuned till August 13 to find out how.