Our first annual Code 4 Impact challenge during AngelHack’s 9th Global Hackathon Series is well underway! With more than 34 projects submitted, we’re thrilled to see our community using their skills for good!!
Check out the latest from team Oswald for Chrome, who created an app that helps people with learning disabilities, the visually impaired, and senior citizens to access the web. Even more inspiring? The app was created by two teenagers from Delhi who are just getting started!
Your project is Oswald for Chrome. Can you tell us where your idea came from?
Both of us had been designing websites for quite some time, and when we first learned about AngelHack, it was natural for us to do something related to web development. Anand suggested the idea of making a Chrome extension to make reading easier for people with dyslexia, since almost no web developer adds accessibility tools to optimize their website for people with a learning disability. We did an enormous amount of research and read through tons of specifications and publications to make Oswald a reality.
Was this the original idea, or did you guys pivot at some point during the hackathon?
The original idea for Oswald was a Chrome extension that would change the colors and font size of a webpage to help people with dyslexia read easier. While developing the tool, we had a lot of ideas and implemented quite a few of them in Oswald. For example, instead of being a tool for just people with dyslexia, we added support for all learning disorders and even visual impairment. A person who cannot see can now use keyboard shortcuts to extract the content of a webpage and have it read to her/ him easily. We also added the option to change the style and typography of a webpage based on personal preferences and not book-defined styles, and included a Night Mode for high-contrast viewing.
Can you tell us how the team formed? Did you all know each other prior to the event?
Nishant is 15 years old and currently in grade 11 at The Mother’s International School, and Anand is 18 years old and just finished his grade 12 from the same school. We both knew each other for a couple of years and have worked on multiple projects together previously as part of our school computer club.
Before we get back to the project, tell us about the actual event. You guys were at AngelHack Delhi. How was it? Tell us your favorite parts!
AngelHack Delhi was a very well-organized event with incredible inspiration and excitement everywhere. Our favorite part was the networking opportunity with representatives of some of the industry’s most innovating companies like HPE. We also had a lot of fun watching other teams’ pitches.
In your mind, what one thing does every hackathon need to make it a successful event?
In one word, inspiration. It’s very important for hackers to remain inspired during the 36-hours of continuous coding, so it’s important to believe in what you’re building. Personally, we’re very passionate about making the web accessible to everyone, and were able to publish our extension on the Chrome Web Store by 7:00 am in the morning. However, we also saw some teams quit midway and not presenting their idea, which felt uninspired. We think there should be a constant source of inspiration, maybe through talks that aren’t focussed on the representatives’ APIs but on actually building things that would make a change for the better.
Ok back to Oswald. We’ve talked about the inspiration, can you tell us a little bit more about the tech? What APIs did you guys use?
Currently, Oswald works on Google Chrome and other browsers with support for the Chrome Web Store like Vivaldi and Chromium, which is why we’re using certain native Chrome APIs like chrome.storage to store the user’s preference and chrome.tabs to access the content in the user’s opened tabs. We have also used the HTML5 Web Storage API to track the status of our service, and the Web Speech API for speech synthesis for our Read Aloud feature. Initially, we were using HPE’s Haven OnDemand API for content extraction, but have since moved to another third-party API to perform the same task with better efficiency.
What are your future plans with the project?
We are still in the very initial stages of Oswald, and plan to incorporate features to support people with color blindness and other disabilities. We are also releasing an API to help web developers make better use of Oswald’s services by incorporating particular meta tags in their source code to help redesign their pages better, and plan on soon developing a standalone Android app to help people browse easier on their mobile devices, since we believe that the best web is one accessible to everyone. We’re only just getting started.