A boyhood friend helps inspire Ustraap

An award-winning navigation device for people who are blind

wrist straps in black, blue and green
December 1, 2014

There’s a story behind the story of every invention.

In the case of Ustraap, a wearable device that has the potential to revolutionize how people who are blind navigate, it’s Marco Trujillo’s childhood friend who was deaf and unable to speak.

Trujillo and his colleagues recently took home $75,000 in prize money from the MassChallenge and Perkins for inventing Ustraap. They’ll use the money to begin manufacturing the high-tech device and making it available for sale to people who are visual impaired.

Trujillo credits a boyhood friend in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico for helping him to understand the day-to-day challenges of living with a disability.

“I was the only one who could talk to him because we created our own sign language,” he recalled. “When I started junior high school he couldn’t get in because he couldn’t communicate with anyone but me. I asked his mother to let him go to sign language classes with me and we learned together. After that he was able to apply to schools.”

The experience stuck with him, Trujillo said, and inspired him to create something that would make life better for people with disabilities. Four years of work with his partners led to Ustraap, a sleek wristband uses a built-in sensor to detect obstacles and wireless earphones to notify users. It’s a white cane for the 21st century – allowing people who are blind to navigate more confidently and independently.

“Ustraap is not only a cool gadget, it’s the beginning of a big trend – a movement that was missing in our society and that consists of offering the best of ourselves to assist other human beings,” Trujillo said. 

Read more about: Assistive Technology, Innovation