Sexual assault, in its many forms, is undoubtedly one of the most heinous crimes prevalent today, not just in India but across the globe. To tackle this threat, Manisha Mohan, an Indian research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed a sticker-like wearable sensor to detect sexual assault and alert victims’ friends and family.
Named Intrepid, the sensor is capable of telling the difference between one voluntarily taking their clothes off and someone else forcibly doing so. The device is designed to memorise the way one usually dresses and will work even when the victim is unconscious or unable to fight back.
The user has to save five emergency contacts on their phone, and the Bluetooth integration with a smartphone app will send out a distress signal in the form of a message to those contacts. Simultaneously, it will create a loud noise to alert people in the vicinity.
But what happens when the sensor misinterprets a harmless gesture as sexual assault? Countering this potential problem, a distress signal is sent out only if the user doesn’t respond to the message sent to her/his phone within 30 seconds.
Manisha, who is originally from Chandigarh, was studying automobile engineering in Chennai when she realised just how limited women’s access to public spaces really is, all in the name of safety. In an interview with PTI, she said,
“Female students on campus were not allowed to work beyond certain hours. You were expected to be back in your dorm by 6:30 pm.”
That’s when she started thinking about putting more safety precautions in place instead of restraining women’s mobility. The device, which is wash friendly, has been tested on close to 100 people and the response has been largely positive
Manisha has recently received a research fellowship that covers all her tuition fees and health insurance at MIT. Talking about her interest in research to The Hindu, she said,
“My passion is innovation and I believe that the conducive environment at MIT Media Lab will provide a channel for the creative ideas I have.”