People Daily

Kenya’s own artificial intelligence master

Antony Muthungu’s  first invention electrocuted him. Years later he has three innovations under his cap and he is not about to stop

Alphayo Onyango @PeopleDailyKe

Anthony Muthungu walks with a confident gait with his piercing gaze telling you he rarely has time for small talk.  For a man whose passion for inventions was fired up after he was electrocuted, it is easy to understand why he is committed to what he does. 

Anthony started innovating in 2006 when he attempted to make biogas from toilet waste. It did not end well. He was electrocuted when he was fixing the wires and was left unconscious  for a few hours. This angered his father who destroyed his innovation. 

Instead of giving up, Anthony  was more determined to  prove to his father and the world that he was an inventor. Born and raised in Nyeri, Muthungu today is a devoted scientist in the innovations field where he constantly challenges himself to find solutions to challenges society faces. 

Invitation

The  26-year-old scholar was among nine other African scientists chosen to participate in the Advancing Healthcare Innovations Africa conference that took place in July this year. Upon invitation by Emory University USA through Emory School of Drug and Development, Anthony secured a seat at the conference. 

He got the invitation after a professor from Makerere introduced him to Emory University.  He came back to the country recently and says  he acquired a wide range of information on legal and scientific considerations that he terms a huge asset to his career.

This is no surprise following his genius inventory this year of an electronic walking stick designed to assist the visually impaired. The intelligent smart cane, as Anthony refers to it, has helped a number of visually challenged people to walk freely. 

The smart cane detects objects at a distance and sends a message to the user through a set of earphones. The combination of five volts of battery power and the smart sensors connected in the cane helps those living with visual impairments to navigate. In relation to the tool’s production cost, he claims he is still compiling accurate figures.

Uphill task

In 2016, his three-year labour bore fruit when he completed his flood-detecting device. The gadget can inform residents if floods are impending, the intensity, and also if fixed in the water supply system of a house, could show the amount of water in the pipes. This would solve accountability and transparency between residents and water companies that lie about water usage.

Unfortunately, with such a will to transform lives through science and innovation, comes the uphill task of challenges.

“All my inventions have to fight this monster called licensing that is hindering my progress. I have no organisation to help me with funding to facilitate my inventions or my research because as an innovator no one wants to invest in attempts, but results.

Currently, I’m doing pilot tests and trying out my gadgets such as the electric cane with some visually impaired individuals,’’ Anthony says.

The year 2017 saw him invent the LUAM (  an abbreviation of the names Lucy and Amos—his parents) black spot tracer,  a device installed in cars to alert motorists when they get to  black spots, bumps and sharp corners.

It sends an alert when the driver is about 500 metres from the scenes.  Due to licensing, this project has been put on hold.

Brilliance

“Being in this field teaches you to bet on yourself more than anything. A lot of people will champion your brilliance, but will never part with an investment. I have had to pay for my own ticket to  travel to South Africa when the things I am doing are for the benefit of other people,’’ The third year Bachelor of Education in Science from Karatina University says. He  recently completed a Computer Engineering  course at Zetech University.

He went to Mathakwaini High School, emerging victorious in all his Science Congress competitions. He is at Zetech Univeristy where he is a board member of International Centre of Innovation Technology and development. Besides that, Anthony also trains students at the institution on technology-related issues for free.

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