According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 253 million people worldwide live with vision impairment.
Of these people, 36 million are blind while 217 million have moderate to severe impairment to their vision. Companies are on the quest to develop cutting-edge technology to aid the user when the human eye falls short. Here is what is new in the world of accessible technology for the blind and vision impaired:
Toronto company eSight is the brainchild of Conrad Lewis, an engineer who has two sisters who are legally blind. Lewis wanted to use his engineering skills to come up with technology that can enable mobility and versatility for the vision impaired. eSight has a high-speed, high-definition camera that captures what the user is looking at and then uses an algorithm to enhance the video feed and display it on two screens in front of the their eyes. The technology aims to help individuals with their daily life, at school and in the workplace.
The area of Yonge and St. Clair is quickly becoming the most accessible hub in Toronto for the blind and visually impaired. Many of the businesses in the area are installing beacons to help blind and visually impaired customers shop at their stores. The beacons work with BlindSquare to send information about the store to the individual’s smartphone via a downloadable app. The information helps the person navigate the store by letting them know where there are fixed obstacles such as stairs, cash registers, doors, etc. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind hopes to install beacons in 200 businesses by the end of 2017.
The German startup FeelSpace has developed a technology that can help the wearer with their sense of direction. The navigation belt gives the person direction via tactile signals; the belt can be worn while walking or biking. For those living with vision impairment, the belt can help them explore their environment and help them get from point A to B.
OrCam uses wearable artificial vision to help the user by converting visual information into spoken word. The attachment fits onto glasses and allows the wearer to get information about text (newspapers, books, menus, labels), recognize faces and identify products and money. The device is meant to assist the wearer in their day-to-day tasks thus allowing for a more independent lifestyle.
Technology is constantly changing and it is exciting to see what advancements are out there to assist those with blindness and vision impairment. With the current advancements in accessible technology, visual hurdles may soon be a thing of the past.