Digital Innovation for a Positive Societal Impact
Meet Jurica Babić, a university professor and inclusion and diversity ambassador striving to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities.
University of Zagreb
Innovative Solutions based on Emerging Technologies for Improving Social Inclusion of People with Disabilities (INNOSID)
Strategic Partnerships for higher education
Pupils with special and additional learning needs
Erasmus+ project results
Hi, my name is Jurica Babić and I currently work as an associate professor at the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing. My Erasmus+ story kicked-off back in the day when my supervisor, professor Vedran Podobnik, invited me as the Master student to apply for a two-week workshop in Valencia. Such an experience changed my perspective of what great opportunities Erasmus+ offers to people who are open to international collaboration and cultural exchange.
In hindsight, one can say that the experience working with great colleagues within several Erasmus+ projects definitively helped in shaping my professional career! I am happy that I have experienced Erasmus+ from different roles, starting from being a student, then a team member, a team leader, a project manager and now the colleagues from the consortium entrusted me to act as the project coordinator!
The cool thing about my Erasmus+ story is that the projects we applied for are fully compatible with what my team likes to research:
- social inclusion of people with disabilities – our ICT-AAC research team has more than 10 years in developing applications for people with disabilities which is why we coordinated the INNOSID project;
- environment and fight against climate change – our SocialLAB research team has the experience in green topics (e.g. my PhD was on electric vehicles), and in implementing serious games and this is in part why we decided to improve green education by coordinating the Play to Green: Serious Gaming for Universal Access to Green Education
Finally, I am honoured to say that in 2022 I joined the Croatian NA’s team of ambassadors for social inclusion and diversity!
About my organisation
The University of Zagreb (1669) is the oldest and biggest university in South-Eastern Europe. The Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing (FER) is the largest technical faculty and leading educational and R&I institution in the fields of electrical engineering, information and communication technology and computing in the Republic of Croatia. Our faculty is organized in what we call “departments” and “laboratories”. My team comes from the Department of Telecommunications and represent the ICT-AAC research laboratory (director: Professor Željka Car, http://www.ict-aac.hr/) and SocialLAB (director: Vedran Podobnik).
In terms of social inclusion, we continuously work on development of innovative solutions based on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for people with complex communication needs and different difficulties. So far, many solutions for mobile devices for education and communication of children with complex communication needs have emerged from the continuous cooperation of scientists and experts from different domains. Collaboration and research also focus on other technologies, such as contactless interfaces, wireless technologies, smart wearables, virtual reality, augmented reality, robotics, and analysis and implementation of multimedia content accessibility, all with the aim of contributing to the quality of life of people with disabilities. You can check our free-to-use digital tools at the official website of the competence network.
For our efforts we were awarded the “Ivan Filipović National Award in 2015″ by the Board of Ivan Filipović Award appointed by the Croatian Parliament.
About the project
The INNOSID project was implemented by a consortium consisting of 6 higher education institutions (HEI) and 1 non-governmental organization (NGO) from the domain of people with disabilities, from 5 EU countries (Croatia, Spain, France, Portugal, and Hungary). The project goal was to improve the social inclusion of PWDs by creating innovative IT solutions based on emerging technologies.
The project focused on creating results that will contribute to the social inclusion of people with disabilities. First, a study on emerging technologies for improving the social inclusion of people with disabilities was prepared. Second, multilingual support was developed for 5 ICT-AAC applications, namely ICT-AAC Sprays, ICT-AAC What time is it, ICT-AAC Learning colors, ICT-AAC Mathematical carousel, and ICT-AAC Mathematics (support for Croatian, English, Spanish, Hungarian, French, and Portuguese, including multilingual user guides). Third, the Learn to Cook application, including the user guide, was developed as a publicly available IT tool based on augmented reality for improving the social inclusion of people with disabilities. Fourth, a total of 15 emerging technology studies were prepared. Fifth, 27 slide decks achieved through 2 activities were published as OERs. Sixth, 4 requirements IT tool requirements specifications were achieved. Finally, the Gibalica application, including the user guide, was developed as a publicly available IT tool based on computer vision for improving the social inclusion of people with disabilities.
There are many enjoyable moments to share from the project, but just to name a few. When it comes to collaboration, it was a pleasure working with Croatian Down Syndrome Association (CDSA) on innovative applications. Thanks to CDSA, we managed to involve people with disabilities into our project. People with Down syndrome and their caretakers joined several of our events such as multiplier events and a workshop. Moreover, CDSA with its direct access to the target group made sure the functionalities of our new apps were tested and in line with the needs of people with disabilities. It was amazing to see how interested the people with disabilities were with the cutting-edge technologies such as augmented reality for the Learn to Cook app and computer vision for the Gibalica app!
Finally, it is important to mention that we involved our students into the INNOSID project and, based on the obtained feedback, they really enjoyed working on digital innovations that by design have the potential for a positive societal impact! Evidently, working on social innovations is much more attracting to young people than working on “boring” business apps! They took part in two iterations of blended mobility within which they worked in teams on visual and interactive prototypes of innovative solutions to improve social inclusion of people with disabilities. They proposed solutions based on technologies such as virtual/augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and holograms.
I sincerely hope they will cherish the memories collaborating and living in Dubrovnik and Valencia and that they will eventually give back to the academic community by enabling the similar opportunities to the next generations!