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A Breton awarded in Las Vegas thanks to his invention: the “co-pilot” for the visually impaired


“It was already great to participate in the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas (United States) and to show our project”, smiles the Crozonnais, Maël Fabien, 25 years old. But the Breton did not leave empty-handed thanks to the innovation of his start-up Biped, based in Switzerland! It received a prize awarded by the economic media International Business Times and the prize for the best Swiss start-up, on January 6 and 7, in parallel with the exhibition devoted to technological innovations. “A surprise”, for Maël Fabien.

Improving travel for blind or visually impaired people

The young entrepreneur presented in Las Vegas a device aimed at improving movement in space for blind or visually impaired people. It is a harness to be placed around the neck that locates objects and obstacles using 3D cameras. The information is then transmitted to the person through a system of sound notes. “We want to try to make 3D sound, so that we can hear the angle and the distance of the object”, explains Maël Fabien. The device will not replace the use of a white cane or a dog, but will be used in addition.

Robotics and artificial intelligence

An idea he started working on in 2020. “When I was working on my thesis in Lausanne, there was the university’s robotics and artificial intelligence laboratory next door. I saw little robots passing through the corridors. During this period, I regularly helped visually impaired people to cross the road near an ophthalmic hospital, ”recalls the Crozonnais. “I told myself that there was something to be done to help, by linking these two worlds”.

What we develop makes sense

In August 2020, he presented his prototype during a hackathon, a “programming marathon”, in Martigny, Switzerland. He won the International create challenge there. “It allowed me to earn the first euros thanks to the project”, recalls the interested party. It was also there that he met Bruno Vollmer, who became co-founder of the start-up. Now, six people are working full time on the project. The prizes received at the beginning of January in Las Vegas “show that what we develop makes sense”, confides Maël Fabien.

First graduated in economics and statistics

Artificial intelligence, however, was not originally the young man’s favorite field. After a degree in economics and a master’s degree in statistics in Lausanne, Maël Fabien worked as a statistician in the insurance industry. “Faced with the wave of automation in insurance statistics, I said to myself: ‘There is something happening and I’m not up to speed on it'”, recalls -he. Le Breton therefore went to Paris to study artificial intelligence.

Even if he has been living in Switzerland for several years, his “home base is the Crozon peninsula, at Le Fret more precisely”. He does not rule out returning to settle one day at the tip of Finistère. Moreover, Brittany is not to be outdone in Maël Fabien’s project. “We chose a communication-marketing company based in Brest,” says the young entrepreneur.

Tests in several Breton cities

To develop the aid device for visually impaired or blind people, the Biped start-up calls on testers. If for the moment the tests are concentrated in Switzerland, they will be organized in the Paris region and in several Breton cities in the months to come. “The objective is to arrive on the market in September 2022”, hopes the founder of the start-up.

We want it to be accessible to as many people as possible.

In the long term, Biped hopes that its invention can be reimbursed by the Departmental Houses for People with Disabilities (MDPH). But to start, the device will be offered in the form of a subscription, at a price of around €99 per month. “We want it to be accessible to as many people as possible,” says the award-winning entrepreneur.




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