A new disruptive technology is changing the way people with low vision, blindness and difficulties reading access text into the future.
Orcam Myeye is an intuitive, smart camera and audio device developed in Israel and mounted onto a person’s existing spectacles. Connected to a portable base unit not much bigger than a mobile phone, it can read text, recognise faces and products. As images and text are instantly downloaded to the base unit, audio is uploaded to a small speaker integrated with the camera and attached to the wearer’s spectacles.
Rhys Filmer, Sales Director of Orciam who was recently in Australia to provide training sessions to new users, said people who use Orcam can also maximise their existing vision by wearing their prescription glasses. “Some people are surprised it doesn’t actually help them see, but the camera is doing the seeing for them and the device is smart enough to figure out what’s in their field of view and convert it into audio,” said Mr. Filmer.
Tim Connell, CEO of Quantum RLV which is distributing the Orcam Myeye in Australia, said the device is an “absolute game changer”.
A lot of visual conditions are degenerative so what might help them today may not help them tomorrow – this device will take them from low vision to blindness
“Other companies are trying to develop similar products but this is by far the most advanced one around.
“A lot of visual conditions are degenerative so what might help them today may not help them tomorrow – this device will take them from low vision to blindness.
“I think this is very disruptive technology; this will change the way a lot of people use technology to access print because it’s wearable – it’s with you all the time. So instead of having to sit at a special chair or desk to use a big device, you’ve got this very discreet, tiny device in your pocket, that doesn’t make you stand out
as being different.”
Mr. Connell said Orcam would be an invaluable help for people when outdoors. “Orcam can read a street sign or see the name on a shop so wearers can work out exactly where they are. This ability to give people feedback on the environment in real time will give them so much independence.”
He said the technology would be equally valuable for people with conditions such as dyslexia that affect their ability to read.
Point to Read
The most common way to use Orcam is to point at text to be read. Using artificial intelligence the camera follows the shape of a finger, and when the finger stops moving, focuses in on the text in the vicinity of the finger as opposed to the whole page. It then takes the picture and converts it automatically. A second way to use the device is to look at some text, then click the button on the control unit. Orcam takes a picture of the whole page, not a particular column or location on the page.
Unusual fonts cannot be read, however the Orcam’s optical character recognition (OCR) functionality means it can ‘learn’ what a product looks like, then recognise it again and describe it to the user. The same goes for recognising faces.
Using gestures, the user can stop the Orcam from reading text, rewind and start it again, or even move to a different part of the page – functionality that is useful for educational environments, reading newspapers and digital devices. Holding a wrist in front of the Orcam triggers advice of the date and time. Other features enable the voice to be changed from male to female and to a different accent. Currently Orcam only reads in English, German and Hebrew, however more languages will be added.
Mr. Connell said Orcam may not suit everyone and will not replace all other devices. “It is not suitable for threading a needle or replacing the oil in an engine; but it fills a very wide niche; there will be people who will buy this and vision magnification devices because there are different activities.
“For us it’s the beginning of the next phase of technology. I’ve been working with vision technology for 30 years and for me this is definitely the most exciting because this is a really big change.”