VADI (virtual assistant for drivers) is part of a start-up project developed by a group of student researchers from the Hanoi University of Science and Technology (HUST) since the beginning of last year, and received second prize in a 2018 contest for students with start-up ideas (SWIS-2018).
The VADI product’s start-up team. — kinhtedothi.vn
As it said on its website, AngelHack’s annual global Hackathon series connects developers, designers and entrepreneurs in cities across six continents with a global network of innovative minds, providing them with exposure to companies and sponsors who enable them to create hacks that can make a true impact. Lê Ngọc Tuấn, a member of the research team, said they faced many difficulties during their research process including settling technical problems and applying new mapping technology and measures to provide news in the fastest and most accurate way. Tuấn revealed his team had some heated discussions before they came up with solutions. They even worked overnight for many days but were unable to find those solutions until they received help from their tutors from HUST, according to Tuấn. “With enthusiastic guidance from our teachers at HUST as well as our passion for technology, the team has overcome all these difficulties to perfect the product,” Tuấn said. The VADI app is available for free on Android or iOS operating systems. Lưu Đức Sơn, a taxi driver from the coastal northern city of Hải Phòng, has already started using the app. Sơn, who has more than 10 years of driving experience, says that he has been using VADI for over three months and is pleased with its voice recognition and navigation advice. Launched last April, VADI currently has more than 10,000 users. Currently, VADI has two main functions: The first is direction and traffic warnings. Information is collected and updated by a software development team, while people with the app can send in traffic updates themselves.
Most drivers in Vietnam currently rely on GPS and the radio for updates.
Using the app, drivers benefit from early traffic warnings from 300m including congestion, accidents and floods. The app also provides information and suggestions on other safe roads for drivers to choose to change their journey. The second function featured on VADI is audio coverage of news and directions. Compared to similar applications, virtual assistance provides information in a natural human-like voice. This app also features male and female accents from the North and South. The group plans to develop more functions such as audio books. They aim to increase the number of downloads to 1.4 million in the next two years, with 280,000 regular users contributing to solving traffic problems in urban areas. To create the app, the team developed a vocal communications programme using artificial intelligence. With high quality synthesised speech technology of Text To Speech, VADI offers users instant information after it finds the latest articles in online newspapers. The team said they spent a lot of time creating voices that sounded more human unlike the normal language on most apps which is robotic and unnatural. Besides reading newspapers, VADI revealed they were also researching more functions such as voice commands. “With this application, when drivers need assistance, they just need to give a brief command and the virtual assistant will help them quickly and accurately,” according to Tuấn. The student said about 5,000 people were regularly using the VADI app and the research team were waiting for feedback from customers to improve the product to make it a “smart and conscientious friend” for each driver. In the future, Tuấn said VADI would upgrade their product to an application platform for automotive hardware, becoming a comprehensive, self-contained virtual assistant that can issue warnings about automotive status to ensure safety on road.Creative student start-up promotion The success of the project has contributed to promoting and replicating creative research and start-up activities among students and young researchers, according to SWIS-2018 organisers. SWIS-2018 – a student contest held annually by the Ministry of Education and Training – aims to gather talented young people and promote their studies and businesses. Speaking at a ceremony to mark the National Start-Up Day for students and the SWIS-2018 contest held in December, Education Minister Phùng Xuân Nhạ said universities were a “cradle” of innovation, creativity and strong intellectual transformation. “Through start-up projects, students will understand they should not only try to find jobs but also create jobs for others. That is the true essence and mission of talent,” he said. Nhạ said the education ministry would continue to offer support by creating conditions for students to start-up their own businesses. “Some enterprises may not be large but can create great value and connect with global intellectual networks as well as Vietnamese scientists abroad, thereby promoting innovation,” he said. “This trend will contribute to improving the quality of training, and at the same time promote school and business integration, creating drive for students and expanding teaching and learning methods,” the minister added.
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