A chess system for the visually challenged

shashaank 001We all have interest in some or the other sport since childhood. Not only that we even play those games on our mobile phones or laptops. We enjoy all outdoor as well as indoor games. But have we ever thought about the visually impaired people? They cannot even enjoy the indoor games. With the world going digital we have everything at our finger tips. How about making digitization helpful for the visually impaired?

Shaashank Sivakumar an engineering student from Chennai has given a thought to this brilliant idea. Having played chess for over 15 years, he have always been amazed on how visually impaired individuals could perform on par with grandmasters. After performing meticulous research on how such people improve their skills, it was really disheartening to note that there was no existing system that helps them to train or practice. Being Computer Science engineers, Shaashank, along with two of his classmates (S. Priyanka and V. Sriram) took this up as their final year project. Since chess is one of the very few games that visually challenged individuals can participate in, he strongly believed it will be beneficial to all the visually challenged people.

The system they are building is still in prototype phase and they are working to improvise it. They are planning to bring games for the visually impaired which will be powered solely by voice commands. With the use of algorithms and various learning machine tools they plan to train the system with games played by humans. A repository of over 5 million games will be used for this purpose. This will ensure that the user doesn’t get outsmarted by the system easily and he/she will feel like the opponent is a human and not a computer.

For Shaashank and his team building this system is not an easy task. They have to face challenges to understand the movements and skills of visually impaired people. They have to get acknowledged with the learning and thinking process of these people. Based on these inputs the algorithms has to be designed and it is a big challenge to put human emotions and thinking into the game. The other main challenge is the time constraint. They plan to finish this product by the starting of next year so that it can be deployed during the Blind Chess Olympiad 2016.

It is really a very innovative idea designed by a trio college students which can help the visually impaired to enjoy the excitement and challenges of the game. Chess, as an indoor game does not require physical activity and would be easy for the visually impaired people to play. With the aids provided by the system developed by Shaashank and his team it will definitely help the sports industry to nurture a different sector altogether. With this innovation the visually impaired people can also take part in the competitive games conducted across international level. It might turn out to be a path-breaking innovation if successful.

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Innovation in Financial Services

Daily newspapers are flooded with changes in the Indian economy based on the steps taken by the Modi government. Not only the FIIs investments are increasing but also there seems to be a change in the industry perspective in India. These changes are directly or indirectly having an impact on the stock market as well. BSE and NSE index which is widely termed as SENSEX (sensitive Index) is one of the major face of the economy of a country. It depicts the performance as well as the health of the companies traded in it. In turn it portrays the strength, sustainability and stability of the country. Economic, financial and industrial growth and development of the country can be depicted through this index.

Past performance of stock market has shown that in last decade it has given around 18% returns on investment. Since the inception of Modi government due to positive global queues the market has surged by almost 30%. This is the only investment option which can give you very high returns over a period of time obviously subject to high risk. No traditional investment options like Fixed Deposits, Insurance policies, National Savings Certificate etc. can give you same returns if invested for same period. Inspite of its out-performance over the period, why people are afraid to enter the stock market for investment options? Why many people are still unaware about the workings and methodology of stock market? If this index has such a strong base to showcase the country’s position in the world market, why is it so unpredictable?

I am sure there are many among you who want to enter the stock market for investment but are not able to because of its unpredictability. What if this unpredictability is reduced and trading is made bit easier? The innovators out there have a chance to tap this innovation gap in the stock market. With analytics and algorithmic trading in trend, these can be used to design a model which can predict the market. There are already many models in the market which are in place, but they have not yet tapped the market well. Many companies like AlgoAnalytics, Nextgenquant etc are already designing models to predict the stock market that can impact their trading decisions. But still we can see the same stock market screen with green and red variations. There has not been much innovation in the stock market.

The existing trading models based on algorithms and quants are designed on set pre-defined rules. They can range from different factors like Time, Profit Margin, Frequency of trading etc. The model is purely based on historical data and real time tick data. They do not take into consideration macroeconomics and microeconomics factors. They also do not involve any technical or financial analysis of the company. But still these models are accurate upto 50-60%. There is probability involved which makes them risky to believe. Also, the existing models which are there in the market are almost similar using the secondary data available. I don’t think it takes into consideration primary data which can be availed only through direct contact with SEBI or the company’s board.

Moreover, all the models seem to be similar giving similar predictability. This might not suit a particular investor. They are all generic models designed for the high-end, high-value investors. So, I feel there is a need for a model which can be customized based on the investor’s needs. A model can be designed which can also consider economic factors to predict the future upto a certain level. There can be following type of investors
1. Short term or Long term investor
2. Pure trader specific
3. Sector specific investor
4. Mixed Portfolio or dedicated portfolio

A model should be designed which can take into consideration above factors on need basis. Few people would not like to track the market or do not have time to personally pay attention to their portfolio. For such people the model can send alerts when a buy or sell or hold indicator is predicted. There can be an option where an individual can allocate an amount he wants to invest over a period of time and based on his investment period, the model can suggest which stocks to invest in. It can also give an estimate of returns over a period of time which can make investment decisions easier for the layman as well.

However, these models cannot take into consideration random changes in the economy or the changes which take place due to personal decisions of the company’s board of directors. Recently, Infosys Board of members decided to sell their shares to raise money for charity. This plunged the stock further inspite of its uptrend in past few months. So such decisions which can be random or sudden change in the economy due to any crisis will be difficult to incorporate. Hence, doing all this might not help to resolve the complete unpredictability of the market, it can only help to reduce the apprehensiveness towards these investment options. So people who are excited about trading and are well versed with algorithms have a chance to showcase their talent to do some innovation in financial markets.

Contributed by my colleague, Snehal Mahajan