Orlando teen invents device with potential to help 2.2 billion people

High school sophomore creates headset for those with visual impairments

ORLANDO, Fla. – At age 16, most kids are thinking about getting their driver’s license or making TikToks, except for Tiffani Gay, who is focused on changing the world with her award-winning invention.

By combining two technologies used in everyday life, Gay is striving to get results for the over 2.2 billion people worldwide with visual impairments.

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The Orlando Science Schools sophomore joined Matt Austin and Ginger Gadsden on Florida’s Fourth Estate to explain the story and the science behind an electronic headset she created.

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“This idea stemmed from an experience with a family friend who had a visual impairment,” Gay said.

From there, she came up with a design and developed a series of prototypes. Similar to safety technology used in cars, Gay’s electronic visor is lined with LiDAR that can detect when objects are close or far away from the user.

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“Those sensors are replicating human vision,” she said.

The device then uses haptic feedback — like the tactile vibrations on your smartphone — around the brim of the headset.

“So if someone is getting close to an obstacle, it will start to vibrate in that region of their head,” Gay said.

It may seem like a simple idea, but Gay’s invention has landed her a box full of national and international awards.

As a middle-schooler, she earned the Lockheed Martin Science Challenge, won first place at the State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida, then placed at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), before coming in first at the Taiwan International Science Fair.

If that wasn’t enough, she also plays the violin, volunteers at ORMC and is Vice President of her high school’s Future Business Leaders of America club.

But for Gay, it’s not about the accolades.

“What I’m doing here is helping solve a global problem. What I’m doing is not trying to brag and get awards so I can show off. So these awards mean a lot to me, they are a motivating factor, but they definitely don’t define my success,” she said.

So, how does someone so young accomplish so much?

Gay points to her mom and dad.

“I have to give credit to my parents, both of them, for always pushing me to try my best in every single thing I do and put my best foot forward in every single thing I do,” she said.

As for her headset prototype, Gay said she’s working with a lawyer to secure a patent and eventually introduce her medical device to the public marketplace for a price under $200.

You can learn more about Gay on Florida’s Fourth Estate, including Gadsden’s personal connection to her invention. You can download the podcast from wherever you listen to podcasts or watch Florida’s Fourth Estate anytime on News 6+.

About the Authors:

Katrina Scales is a producer for the News 6+ Takeover at 3:30 p.m. She also writes and voices the podcast Your Florida Daily. Katrina was born and raised in Brevard County and started her journalism career in radio before joining News 6 in June 2021.

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 3:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.