In recent years assistive technology in a wide range of areas has developed apace and helps people with all kinds of disabilities to enjoy greater independence and freedom. Those people with visual impairments, however, have for a long time been left a little behind. Fortunately, that is now beginning to change, and the following are three excellent examples of assistive tech which could make a huge difference to the lives of people with sight issues.
An innovative and cutting-edge piece of assistive tech, OrCam MyEye is described as the ‘world’s most advanced wearable artificial vision device’. A small camera and communication device, which can fit easily and unobtrusively onto the frame of a normal pair of glasses, OrCam works by converting visual information into the spoken word.
Offering an enhanced level of independence and freedom for users with a variety of sight issues, OrCam is able to read the text, recognise faces and identify products and monetary denominations. Activated simply by pointing at the text or item its user wishes the OrCam to identify or by pressing a button, the device then tells them what it is they are looking at through its built-in audio.
Being able to read the written word and relay what’s written to the wearer, means that the OrCam can make things like ordering in a restaurant far easier and also allows greater privacy when it comes to personal correspondence. Both faces and products, meanwhile, can be pre-loaded into the device through an easy one-time entry process, so that the OrCam can then recognise and identify them with their own voice tags. Contact Moorings Mediquip for further information.
Designed to assist the visually impaired in navigating London’s transport system, the Wayfindr App is a project initiated by the London Society for the Blind. Aimed to be as widely accessible as possible, the app utilises smartphones and so-called iBeacons which are already present in transport terminals around the capital.
Through Bluetooth Low Energy Technology, present in almost all smartphones, those iBeacons can help guide a Wayfindr App user around the London transport system by providing spoken directions through bone-conducting earphones.
That, therefore, gives a visually impaired user of the app the support and confidence they need to get around the capital without always having to have somebody with them.
Another app able to be used through a smartphone and designed to assist the blind and visually impaired, TapTapSee utilises a phone’s camera and voiceover functions to photograph and identify both 2D and 3D items.
Powered by the CloudSight.ai image recognition API (application programming interface), TapTapSee lets users double tap their phone’s screen to photograph any object at any angle, and will then accurately analyse and define that object within seconds. The device’s voiceover will then speak the name or identification of the object audibly to the user.
Currently, this particular app is only available to users of iOS-controlled devices and factors such as light conditions do impact the app’s ability to identify objects. In general, however, the identification capability of the app is really impressive.
Named for Ariadne, the daughter of Minos in Greek myth who was most associated with mazes and labyrinths, the ARIANNA (pAth Recognition for Indoor Assisted NavigatioN with Augmented perception) app is aimed at helping the visually impaired find their way around indoor environments.
Yet another app which utilises a smartphone camera, in order to use the ARIANNA app, coloured tape must first be stuck to the floor, to mark out different routes through the room or home. When a user then points their phone at the floor, it will vibrate when it finds the tape in order to allow that user to follow the pre-designed routes.
For further functionality, QR codes can also be included at specific points along a tape route, which when scanned by a phone will inform the user of what is at the location or will give them whatever other information is desired.
In some ways similar to the OrCam but without the spoken word aspect, eSight is a visor-style device which you wear like a normal pair of glasses. According to its creators, it is ‘a versatile, wearable, hands-free solution that provides sight, without the need for any surgery.’
Clinically proven to provide vision even to those with sight issues so severe that they’re legally registered as blind, eSight works through the use of a high speed, high-definition camera which captures everything in a wearer’s field of vision. Special algorithms then work to enhance the feed and display it on two OLED screens in front of the eyes.
Those full-colour video images boast unprecedented clarity and virtually no lag, and the eSight also includes an innovative Bioptic Tilt capability. That capability allows a user to adjust the screens to the precise position which provides the best vision for each individual, maximises peripheral vision and aids balance.
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