Dr. Joshua Miele lost his eyesight at age 4. But as an adult, he’s been finding ways to help blind and visually impaired people perceive the world through touch and sound.
On Tuesday, Dr. Miele was among the 25 people, including artists, poets, historians, and scientists, selected for a $625,000 MacArthur Fellowship, the annual “genius grant.”
Dr. Miele has been a pioneer in designing and adapting tech to make the world more accessible. “I come up with cool ideas to solve problems for blind people,” he told KQED radio in San Francisco in 2011.
What kinds of cool ideas? He’s leveraged the power of a smartphone, Bluetooth, and tiny accelerometers to build the wireless WearaBraille, a pair of high-tech gloves that turn any surface into a Braille keyboard.
He also developed a web-based program that generates tactile street maps of any location, and they can be printed on paper at home with a Braille embosser.
Now a researcher at Amazon Lab126, Dr. Miele helped create the “show and tell” feature on Amazon Echo devices. Hold up a food product in front of the Echo camera and ask Alexa to identify it.
“As we emerge from the shadows of the past two years, this class of 25 Fellows helps us reimagine what’s possible,” MacArthur Fellows managing director Cecilia Conrad said in a statement. “They demonstrate that creativity has no boundaries.”
Dr. Miele has spent most of his lifetime defying limitations. Now he’s getting some recognition – and a bunch of cash – to fuel his creative juices.