by Ayliffe Brown

July 16, 2015

Out of Sight, Out of Fright

Even with Moore’s law in full effect for the rapid evolution of wearable technology, there has not been much progress in assistive technology for the visually impaired. With that said, even glasses have remained basic in design and application. WT | Wearable Technologies wants to share the newest wearable products that can assist people who need a bit more independence in their everyday lives. Below are seven products that can enhance the life of a person living with loss of sight.

 

What about electronic glasses that enable the blind to see? Now the invisible can become hearable with Horus Technology.  Horus observes, understands and describes reality to the wearer. For example, Horus can detect objects, read text, detect faces, provide a spoken interface, and mobility assistance. This technology assists the wearer by providing real-time information. Horus uses bone conduction, therefore not obstructing the hearing of the person. Yet, the wearer can still hear Horus when need be.

Sometimes it’s all about the wording that gets consumers to react to a product. Pixium Vision has an intelligent tactic of redesigning the camera to only capture and send data just like the human retina. They say that our eyes only see changes in our environment, and photoreceptors are activated independently. Pixium is deriving retina stimulation signals from the output of a sensor that functionally emulates the human retina’s process of acquiring visual information from a scene. For more information check out their video below, or their website.

 

 

In addition, OrCam is an intuitive portable device with a smart camera designed to assist people who are visually impaired. The product works by connecting a smart camera to the frame of your glasses, and placing a micro-processor into your pocket. OrCam harness the power of Artificial Vision to give people a sense of sight with an audio earpiece. The wearer just points to an object and OrCam responds! It can read, recognize faces and objects.

Argus II is a more intrusive method of wearables for the blind; designed by Second Sight and researchers at Duke University. The technology works with an implant of receivers and light inside the eye. This communicates with a camera located on the center of glasses, worn on the face. The camera captures light to send as patterns to the electronics implanted within the eye. The trick is for the user. They have decifer between what light patterns are what objects. Argus II seems like a sound solution for those suffering with blindness and is searching for any method to perceive light.

Likewise, eSight is producing another headset that allows the blind to see. Their goal is to enable all visual impaired people to live a life filled with education and independent employment. Now how do they do that?!  eSight enhancing the quality of the image reaching the eye to have more data and trigger and increased reaction from the cells in the eye; thus improving the data sent from the eye to the brain.  This includes peripheral sight. The hardware incorporated in the headset is HD camera, OLED screens, real-time video capturing, and a separate processing unit.

 

Dot is a braille smart watch.  Dot is a start-up created by four university students. These students were inspired to create this wearable from witnessing visually impaired students struggle with their research for courses. Most visually impaired people cannot use digital technology because it is not designed for people with poor eye sight. It is important that these consumers feel like they understand what they are interacting with. The display screen is braille, instead of touch screen. The Dot is special because it is smaller and thus more practical for modern day people. Dot is a wearable that will not leave anyone behind.

In 2014 Microsoft partner with The Future Cities Catapult, The Cities Unlocked and Guide Dogs for the Blind in order to build assistive technology to benefit blind people with wearable technology. Together they made a headset. Their goal is to provide comfort in the streets for people who cannot see; by designing the urban landscape into an inclusive, interactive environment.   The headset uses basic technology: GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, audio, a camera all working with an Arduino microcontroller. However I will not be available for purchase for two or three years. This is because the headset works in unison with a Smart City. Urban infrastructure would need to rapidly evolve in order to accompany the headset. This means creating a public internet of things. Thus, making life easier for the wearer by completing simple tasks; like clicking the crosswalk button, or informing the wearer that is trash day so be wary of trashcans on the sidewalk.

 

Lechal introduces the world’s first haptic footwear.  The footwear was initially conceived as a solution to help the visually-impaired navigate their worlds better but now is a mass-market product. It is available as an insole, or a shoe! Lechal uses Bluetooth technology to interact with the wearer by indicating directions with small vibrations under the foot. Deigned to be hands-free, and audio-free when you use their smartphone app via voice control.  The footwear is supported without data connection, therefore can provide directions with no mobile services. It supports all forms of transportation, for example cycling, walking, driving, and public transportation. The wearer can create their own short cuts, and pin important locations. Lechal can function alongside a walking cane, while it works as a fitness tracker. They go the extra distance by donating part of the proceeds from Lechal sale to provide a pair of soles for a visually-challenged person. The soles are now available for pre-order sales.

 

Intact dbGLOVE is an interactive, wireless glove for legal blind and deaf-blind people. It mimics Malossi and Braille to enable easy digital communication. Messages sent to a smartphone, translated into speech, or over the internet. Replies are sent to the dbGLOVE, which translates letters into vibrations that stimulate touch cues onto the hand.  Intact’s goal is to give a bit of independent living to those that cannot read the words on a screen.

 

Lastly we have an app for blind people to use on their smartwatch. ViaOpta Nav gives voice commands for directions. Text to Speech is enabled for the wearer to state their final destination. The watch then replies with turn-by-turn walking instructions. The app also notifies the wearer is there is a detour. ViaOpta Nav is now available in the apple store and google play.

 

For now it seems as though engineers believe the best way to assist those who cannot seen perfectly is to provide them with basic voice controlled directions. However, there is hope that artificial intelligence will provide the appropriate technology to give more accessibility to the visually impaired. Within the next few years we should expect the blind population to feel more comfortable within their interactions with society, thanks to wearable technology.