Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli visited the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston in support of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation’s funding of research on assistive technologies for the blind and for reducing global poverty.
"The partnership with MIT was born here in Boston two or three years ago," Bocelli said. "After a concert, I met Professor Munther Dahleh. We discussed the idea to create a device that could act as a substitute for the eyes. The answer I got from Professor Dahleh was, ‘Yes, we can.’”
While recognizing that this research may help him personally (Bocelli became blind after a childhood accident), the singer said his primary motivation was helping others who are blind or visually impaired: “I have friends who have issues with going to work or grocery shopping, locating items on the shelves. The issue is having the ability to live independently.”
Seth Teller, a professor of computer science and engineering in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, described the goal of MIT’s Fifth Sense project as “developing portable, wearable devices that [can] enable blind and visually impaired people to participate independently in daily activities.”
Assistive technology devices were exhibited as part of Bocelli’s visit.
At a midmorning press event, Bocelli drew chuckles when he explained his role in his foundation projects: “I do almost nothing. My main role is raising funds, so the big challenge for me is to continue singing well or maybe to begin singing well.”
In the afternoon, the focus shifted to fighting poverty. Bocelli opened a “Break the Barriers” workshop focused on reducing poverty through education, clean water projects, and environmental protection efforts, as well as emphasizing the use of scientific data and methods to assess the impact of such programs.
You can read the full report of the visit on the MIT website.