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Advent of the Note-Taker

July 12, 2018
Sethuraman Panchanathan
Dr. Panchanathan

When Panch first met David Hayden, David was a freshman at Arizona State University.

He was a double-major in math and computer science.

And, he was legally blind.

David was a determined young man who didn’t let life’s challenges hold him back, but he did request help with one thing; even from the front row, he couldn’t read the lecture content, and it was hampering his ability to get the most from the courses.

In analyzing how best to accommodate David, Panch thought, if David could find a way to solve his own challenge, he could also find a way to meet the needs of others. Panch invited David into his lab to collaborate on a solution.

David initially connected his computer to an off-the-shelf pan/tilt/zoom video camera. He recorded  lectures, piping them directly into his tablet, and later split the screen to link the video to his course notes. Not only did this work for David, but it wasn’t long before his sighted peers were asking to use his high-tech lecture notes. He shared his innovative tool with other sight-impaired students, incorporated their feedback, and built a device called The Note-Taker. David’s groundbreaking invention didn’t just get him through his undergraduate classes. It won him the Microsoft Imagine Cup, a global innovation competition that receives 300,000 entries a year.

David continued his education, pursuing a Ph.D. and expanding his entrepreneurial endeavors. Today, David is a member of an elite group of tech inventors who took personal challenges and used them to create meaningful tools that help countless other individuals realize their own potential.