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IIT professor, Microsoft scientist bag awards for contributions for linking computing to society

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The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) honoured Meenakshi Balakrishnan, an IIT-Delhi professor, who designed a smart cane that allows the visually-impaired to detect items above their knee level, and Victor Bahl, an India-born scientist at Microsoft, for their contributions to shape the role of computing in society.

The 2018 ACM award recipients made seminal contributions to education via textbooks and online education, to the mobile computing community, and technologies to aid the visually-impaired, ACM said. They will be honoured at an ACM function in San Francisco on June 15.

Challenging work

According to ACM, Balakrishnan will receive the ACM Eugene L. Lawler Award for Humanitarian Contributions in Computer Science and Informatics, for his work that helped address challenges faced by the visually-impaired.

“Each of his devices has been developed by the meticulous integration of hardware, software and firmware. His applications have not only improved the quality of life for countless people, but also made their day-to-day lives dramatically safer. These technologies are valuable in the developing world, where there are fewer resources for the visually-impaired,” it said.

ACM cited his SmartCane project that helped the visually challenged detect things above their knee level within a distance of three metres. For this, Balakrishnan equipped the probing cane with ultrasonic ranging equipment, where the cane conveys the distance of obstacles using vibrations. Already 70,000 SmartCanes, which cost just 5 per cent of a comparable product in the West, have been distributed among the needy.

Mobile networking

Bahl, who originally hails from New Delhi, received the ACM Distinguished Service Award for his service to the broad community of mobile computing and wireless networking, and for building strong linkages between academia, industry, and government agencies. He is a distinguished scientist at Microsoft Research in the US.

Robert Sedewick, Stanford University professor, got the Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award for developing new teaching methodologies, while Chris Stephenson, head of computer science education strategy at Google, received the Outstanding Contribution to ACM Award for advancing computer science education, it said.

Source: The Hindu