Low vision affects an estimated millions and millions of adults over the age of 40, often as a result of vision problems such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa and diabetes-related eye diseases.
These vision "killers" can make everyday life more challenging, but several fascinating technological innovations can help people with vision problems better perceive their environments and, therefore, live a more independent life.
1Orcam MyEye Pro: reading glasses for those who cannot see
OrCam MyEye Pro is a small wireless camera that hooks onto the temple of any pair of glasses, allowing the blind or visually impaired to "read" mail, recognize friends and even decipher currency. And this is only the beginning.
To decipher the world around them, blind people employ all four remaining senses, especially sound, with the brain using auditory signals to create mental images. This is the premise behind OrCam MyEye Pro. This cutting-edge technology helps its users make sense of the visual world describing what vision problems do not allow him to see.
A small wireless smart camera the size of an index finger attaches a magnet to any pair of eyes. Just point your finger or tap the touch bar and the camera will capture an image of what is in front of you, communicating the information in audio through a small speaker located above your ear. Simplify shopping: scan barcodes and identify the denomination of the banknote in your hand.
People can teach OrCam to memorize and identify hundreds of everyday objects (from logos on buildings to products in the fridge). The device continuously scans the surrounding environment, and is also equipped with facial recognition to "remember" friends, acquaintances or co-workers.
Orcam also responds to voice commands. A newspaper opens, says: “Read the article on football”, and the device does it. You take an envelope, ask Orcam and the system will tell you where the letter came from. If you ask "how much is it?" in front of a bill, Orcam will read everything and provide the amount.
When it comes to helping those with low vision, the use of a cane is invaluable. For this WeWALK, an innovative smart stick with touch pad and speaker, it can make a difference. Thanks to the use of ultrasound, WeWALK is able to detect obstacles that are above the level of the chest (tree branches, telephone poles, road signs) and alerts the user by sending a vibration. Simple and efficient.
Today, almost all people with vision impairments and a cane also use GPS navigation on their phone. However, it is not easy to manage two devices with both hands full. WeWALK can connect wirelessly to the smartphone: users can thus keep the phone in their pocket while walking, keeping one hand free and dedicating themselves to what is happening around them.
The stick's touch pad allows access to a number of additional functions. For example, WeWALK can connect by public transport. If you are near a bus stop, the stick will communicate all the data: which is the next bus arriving and what are the travel times.
At first glance, eSight looks like it came straight out of Star Trek: The Next Generation . (Note for non-Trekkies: google "Geordi La Forge".) This elegant device it is actually a special type of electronic eyewear that can provide improved vision to people with low vision (visually impaired and blind).
Abstract: although parts of their eyes are damaged or failing, people with vision problems retain a residual vision, often peripheral. eSight increases the function of the parts of the eye that are still functional to compensate for those that are not. The head-mounted display houses a small camera that captures everything you are looking at. The device's algorithms improve the footage before displaying it on two high-resolution screens, in real time.
The eSight remote control, a trackpad built into the headset, can make adjustments (brightness, contrast, sharpness) to improve image quality. Users can automatically focus on all distances: short (a paperback book or the restaurant menu); half (a computer screen); or long (the stage of a concert).
The device also allows those with low vision to touch the smartphone display and stream content directly in front of the eyes.
Gianluca Riccio, born in 1975, is the creative director of an advertising agency, copywriter and journalist. He is affiliated with Italian Institute for the Future, World Future Society and H +, Network of Italian Transhumanists. Since 2006 he directs Futuroprossimo.it, the Italian resource of Futurology.
Futuroprossimo.it is an Italian resource of futurology opened since 2006: every day news about the near future. Scientific discoveries, medical research, prototypes, concepts and predictions about the future for free.
Gianluca Riccio, copywriter and journalist - Born in 1975, he is the creative director of an advertising agency, he is affiliated with the Italian Institute for the Future, World Future Society and H +, Network of Italian Transhumanists.