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Sunday, January 24, 2021

This 16-yr-old’s app is now a Chrome extension – Latest News

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Rapidly flashing lights is not an uncommon phenomenon in video games, movies and YouTube videos. It usually goes unnoticed, or causes us to look away for a second. But there’s a dark side to these bright lights. What’s just mildly annoying to some can be strongly aversive, even dangerous, to many with photosensitive epilepsy (PSE), triggering seizures. And yet, most videos don’t come with a warning.

It’s what inspired 16-year-old Jaisal Kothari to create FlikcerApp.com, a website that tests for and removes epileptic content by showing the time stamps of potential triggers and offering a safer version of the video to download. The web app was in September accepted by Google as a Chrome extension, which means it automatically tests a video in the background.

“It’s a very common disorder among kids and adolescents, but is often undiagnosed because there are no clear symptoms. I was a little sceptical initially as I could have it too” says the young techie.

Jaisal, an 11th grade student at Delhi’s Amity International, discovered the pitfalls of PSE during a trip to Korea last year. “I made friends with someone who suffers from it, and that’s when I first learned about it,” he says. He later did extensive research and consulted professionals to learn more about the disorder. He came across a peer-reviewed research paper online on automated detection of epileptic content, that helped him understand the algorithm for creating the product.

It took him some time to make sense of it and program the method, but within a week or so, he came up with a prototype that could initially only output the time stamps of flashes. But even that took time, especially for heavy video files. He spent the next few months optimising the algorithm so as to make the product real-time, and was able to bring down the wait time from 15-20 minutes for a 5-minute-long video to just about 2 minutes. He later added a feature that lets users download the video with the detected flashes removed in less than 3 minutes.

Getting the extension on Chrome web store is one of his proudest achievements. “It was a long process. I even had to remove the download feature from the extension as it wasn’t allowed.”

Jaisal has long been a tech enthusiast. He previously developed an app to tackle the issue of potholes in the capital which was used by the Delhi government. He learnt the basics of web development from his elder brother, and developed his skills by taking online courses and watching YouTube videos. With so many resources online, learning is not hard anymore. The most important thing to master, Jaisal says, is research.

He’s currently researching other kinds of triggers for seizures.

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