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Ingenious Inventions Recognized

Two HKUST Research Teams Awarded the National James Dyson Award 2022

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(From left) Kwok Kin-Nam, Chan Kwun-Chung, Minji Seo, and Leung Yuen-Yin awarded 2022 James Dyson Award National Winners with their invention O_Oley.
(From left) Kwok Kin-Nam, Chan Kwun-Chung, Minji Seo, and Leung Yuen-Yin awarded 2022 James Dyson Award National Winners with their invention O_Oley. [Download Photo]
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Two research teams from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) were named national winner and runner-up of the James Dyson Award 2022, recognizing their capabilities in developing tangible technologies that address real-world problems as design engineers. The winning team invented “O_Oley” — a non-invasive wearable device that could prevent the progression of glaucoma in mild and pre-glaucoma patients, whereas the runner-up team invented “PreDyctor” — a dysgraphia pre-screening system for rapid, low-cost, and at-home dysgraphia testing.

About O_Oley

O_Oley is non-invasive, physiotherapy device that can stop the development of glaucoma in mild and pre-glaucoma patients. Users wear a set of comfortable curved-shell goggles for contactless thermal stretching of their eyes. Through customizable adjustments, the device actively stretches the ocular muscles of the eye, enhances tear secretion and improves ocular compliance.

Comprising a corneal tissue compliance improvement (CTCI) system and multiple visible and IR spectrums to increase the temperature of the ocular tissue, O_Oley boosts blood circulation and induces relaxing thermal stretching of the ocular tissue to strengthen its ability to withstand intra-ocular pressure. This reduces stress in the ocular tissues and decreases the risk of optic nerve damage caused by glaucoma.

Unlike other treatments for glaucoma for diagnosed patients, O_Oley is non-invasive and offers a comfortable warming therapeutic experience suitable for home use.

The O_Oley Inventor

O_Oley was designed by a research team from the School of Engineering (SENG), comprising KWOK Kin-Nam, PhD in Mechanical Engineering (Year 5); CHAN Kwun-Chung, BEng in Mechanical Engineering (Year 4); Minji SEO, PhD in Mechanical Engineering (Year 1); and LEUNG Yuen-Yin, BEng in Mechanical Engineering (Year 3). The team hopes their design can help reduce the global prevalence of glaucoma with an easy-to-use device that can be adjusted for different users’ needs and is comfortable enough to keep using on a daily basis.

Winning the Hong Kong national leg of the James Dyson Award will inject £5,000 into the O_Oley project, enabling the team to patent their design and kick start a startup so they can make O_Oley smaller, lighter, and more effective.

“Our passion and curiosity helped brainstorm and bring ideas together for this device. Inspired by hot yoga, our team decided to explore the same concept for healthy eyes. Further inspired by Dyson’s bladeless fan, we implemented contactless inductive stretching, rather than full contact stretching like commercial ocular massagers,” said Kin-Nam.

“While built-up eye pressure is the major risk factor of glaucoma, I am glad to see O_Oley present a wise approach that utilizes regulated negative pressure and IR irradiation to ease such conditions. Its goggle-format design is commendable because it makes this therapy possible at home and encourages patients to keep performing the treatment without strain. This is a promising solution and good news for all glaucoma patients,” said Steve Yeung, Hong Kong judge.

The first engineering and clinical prototype of O_Oley took the form of swimming goggles with a flat crystal sheet at front that allowed the team to monitor ocular conditions under different stretching levels. By 3D scanning a face model the team could test and examine the fit of various goggle shapes. For the commercial prototype, they simplified the design, making it more comfortable and robust.

The O_Oley will progress to the international stage of the James Dyson Award and the O_Oley team aims to commercialise this product. The team wants to get user feedback to improve the interface and functionality and hopes to build personalized exercise protocols on top of the design based on the users’ conditions and ocular health. The team also wants to develop a mobile app to make the customization process easier and more enjoyable for the users.

The International shortlist will be announced on 12th October, and the International winners on 16th November.

About PreDyctor

Dysgraphia is a learning disorder associated with impaired writing ability. People with dysgraphia have difficulty with writing legibly and quickly. Estimated to affect 10% of the global population, including James Dyson, diagnosis for Chinese speakers with dysgraphia involves lengthy assessments by psychologists.

PreDyctor is the world’s first dysgraphia identifier for Chinese language handwriting. It offers a quick and low-cost pre-screening system that can assess Chinese characters and estimate the chance that the writer has dysgraphia. PreDyctor analyses handwriting using two independent models: a rule-based scoring model and a similarity-based comparison model. It then aggregates the outputs of the two models to estimate the probability that the user has dysgraphia. PreDyctor can identify Chinese-speaking children with dysgraphia for early intervention programs.

The research team comprised of four students from SENG, namely NIE Fei, BEng in Computer Science (Class of 2022); ZHOU Xin-rui, Dual Degree in BEng & BBA (General Business Management & Computer Science) (Class of 2022); ZHAO Yan-kun, BEng in Computer Science (Class of 2022); and ZHAO Yi-zhe, BSc in Computer Science (Class of 2022).

James Dyson Award

The James Dyson Award is an international design competition that celebrates, encourages, and inspires the next generation of design engineers. Open to current students and recent design and engineering graduates, the Award is a chance for budding inventors to make a name for themselves. As well as winning prize money, they can generate media exposure to kick-start their career, earn the esteem of their peers – and perhaps gain the confidence to launch their own business.

(Information in this news was originally provided by James Dyson Award 2022.)