According to World Health Organization (WHO estimates, in 2018 there were approximately 1.3 billion people with some form of distance or near vision impairment. In the past, physical limitations may have posed a significant barrier for individuals with disabilities wanting to access information and knowledge. Inventors nowadays, however, have been breaking the barriers to a better quality of life for the visually impaired.
One great pleasure of driving is enjoying the scenery alongside the road. This is the idea behind “Feel the View” smart window for blind passengers developed by Ford team of Italy and Aedo, a start-up company. By simply pressing a button, a built-in camera photographs the view in black and white then reproduces the image through embedded small LEDs which provide haptic feedback by vibrating up to 225 levels of vibration intensity, corresponding to different shades. This way, visually impaired passengers can also enjoy and feel the view.
Another exciting development is “OrCam”. An Israeli start-up developed assistive wearable technology that reads text, recognizes faces, identifies products and objects. Their latest commercial launch is “OrCam MyEye 2” – users simply connect via Bluetooth and press a button to take photos or videos. The data from the camera will be converted to voice in different formats, which informs users about objects and people, instantly reads texts in books at the tap of a finger and scans a barcode for seamless shopping experiences.
For those concerned about privacy when using voice reading mode, “Dot” offers a quiet option for providing information. It is the world’s first Braille smart watch invented by a start-up in South Korea. With Braille letters generated on the watch and Bluetooth connection via a smartphone, it provides the visually impaired direct access to clock, text, call and notification functions.
Despite the relatively high R&D cost, the concrete implementation of innovative technologies for the visually impaired has a promising future. With more support from governments and NGOs in this field of technology development, the quality of life for the visually impaired will improve.
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