Visually impaired can ‘see’ with this assistive technology

Smart device communicates visual information by audio

SAN ANTONIO – A simple hand gesture or click of a button allows the visually impaired to “see”. OrCam’s assistive device named MyEye2 is helping improve the quality of life for blind of partially sighted people.

Although the device doesn’t change a person’s vision, it can recognize faces and products, read text, tell time and more.

“With this tiny device, our users can read any kind of literature like from a newspaper or a book or even from a smartphone screen,” Rafi Fischer, OrCam’s Director of Public Relations said. “Basically, we’re trying to make the visual world accessible to (the visually impaired).”

Users like Bobby Lakey said the device has helped him become more independent.

“It’s like having a friend available at all times,” Lakey said. “I can pull (the device) out, aim it toward the text, take a picture and hear it.”

Fischer said the OrCam MyEye2 resembles a bluetooth, works completely off-line and is able to communicate visual information by audio almost immediately.

“The two big advantages for (it) working off-line is that there are no data privacy concerns because nothing is being sent to the cloud (to) be intercepted, and also, speed is an advantage. It works very quickly,” Fischer said.

It can be clipped onto the side of glasses or, as Lakey prefers, on his lanyard.

“It’s just a real handy, small (and) portable way to to carry around a device that will will let you be able to read,” Lakey said.

MyEye2 can also recognize people.

“There’s a small camera, smart camera that went into the device, which you wear on glasses,” Fischer said. “When you encounter a person, if that person isn’t a preprogramed face OrCam MyEye will tell you (if) a man, woman or child is standing in front of you. If I program your face in, then next time you’re approaching me, I’ll hear your name whispered in my ear because of the speaker (near my eye).”

The device responds also responds to gestures like raising your wrist to tell time or extending your hand in front of you to signal it to stop reading the text.

The product retails from $4,000 to $5,000. An investment that Lakey assured is worth it.

“(To the) blind or visually impaired person out there that is struggling with being able to pursue employment or academics or just live their daily lives taking care of their kids or whatever, I encourage them not to give up and to look for products like OrCam to be able to eliminate those barriers,” Lakey said. “Every time that we as a blind, visually impaired person, tear down a barrier, then that opens the door for success.”

Although it’s not covered by medical insurance plans in the U.S., Fischer said it’s fully funded by the VA for veterans. Blind or visually impaired people that need the device for educational or work opportunities could also get the device funded by the Texas Workforce Commission’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services Department.

For more information on OrCam MyEye2, click here.

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