At the end of 2020, Envision, the company behind the iOS and Android app Envision AI, launched the Envision Glasses, AI-enabled smart glasses designed with features specifically for visually impaired people. The features of the Envision Glasses are mostly identical to those of the Envision AI app.
Mark from our Digital Team recently tested the Envision Glasses to find out for himself how well they worked. He also talks through each feature and what he thinks should be done to improve the Envision Glasses.
Read what he had to say below.
So today is a good day because I got to play with the new Envision Glasses. The device uses state-of-the-art technology that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help people living with a visual impairment live more independently.
The device uses a camera, mounted on a pair of spectacle frames to do various tasks, like reading, identifying people or objects, and it will even phone a friend.
One other thing I need to add is the device and the glasses frame are made by Google!
The device comes in two separate packages: box one holds the Envision Glasses Frame and the other holds the brains of the outfit, the device itself, the Envision Glasses Body.
Who knew, but I’m a big fan of how things are represented, and the packaging is an important part of the product, one of those ‘first impression’ moments. Envision didn’t disappoint, ice white and black boxes that remind me of the too numerous to count openings of my Apple products over the years!
Once opened you have the body, the frame, a charging lead (not charger) and some simple ‘Get Started’ instructions in large print.
Setting up the Envision Glasses
The first thing to do would be to attach the body to the frame. With sight, this was very obvious, with no sight I’m sure it might be tricky for some.
As a test, I talked my wife through assembling the two parts and we did it without too much friction. I can imagine both sighted and non-sighted people would need help with the assembly part, but it only needs to be done once.
Once that is sorted you will need to charge the device up using the USB charging lead. My device came with a 10% charge, but it quickly charged up to 100% before I knew it, which was less than an hour – very impressive!
The next thing I had to do was to download the Envision AI app – the device needs the support of the app and Wi-Fi to carry out most of its functions (more of that later), so you need to bear that in mind. Setting the app up, pairing it to the Envision Glasses and connecting it to my Wi-Fi and/or hotspot was a very intuitive and fast process.
Finally, I get to put the frames on and start to play with it. Before I get to the features I want to say how impressed I am with the materials – the overall weight and balance of the Envision Glasses once on your face. It weighs in at 51g, for both the body and the titanium frame, which is nothing. For my face shape, it not only uses my ears and nose to take this weight, but the Envision body ever so slightly hugs my cheekbone, thus taking some of the weight too. As a result, they are super comfortable to wear for prolonged periods.
Features of the Envision Glasses
The features are split into two categories: read and identify. There is also the Call A Friend feature. Each feature is described below:
- Instant Text – This is a quick way to read a piece of text, whether it’s printed or handwritten. A good example for this mode would be to find a letter addressed to you. By introducing the letter to the camera of the device, it would quickly convert that text to speech for you. There were issues with this feature when we tested it in our office if there wasn’t a good Wi-Fi connection.
- Scan Text – This is a way to read something more significant, like a letter. This worked really well, with near-perfect accuracy. The voice was clear and relaxing, but one thing I noticed is that it assumed dates were in US format.
- Scan Batch – This allows you to scan and save more than one document to your Envision Library, which sits on your smartphone. You can recall this information using the device and the Envision AI app.
- ‘Describe Scene’ – This feature will use the camera to take a photo of the scene, then use artificial intelligence to verbalise the view.
- ‘Detect Colour’ – This feature will try to identify the colours of objects, like a t-shirt or blouse you present to the camera.
- ‘Find Objects’ – This feature will let you know if certain predetermined objects that are programmed into the device (like a cup, bottle, TV, phone, bicycle, backpack, etc.) are found. The list is long, so you can change the items to find to suit your preferences, such as remove bicycle and add dog. Using this mode enables you to identify whether an object from your list is within the view. You can scroll through the objects that it detects at a time and, using the app, populate the list of items that it looks for with your own selection. Whilst this list is limited, I understand that it will be expanded in the future.
- ‘Find people’ – This feature will detect people and/or specific people that are in your view. For specific people who will need to programme the face of the person using the Envision App.
- ‘Explore’ – This feature will scan the room and let you know the objects it can see.
Call a Friend
This feature allows you to call an “ally” using your Envision glasses and/or your smartphone or WIFI. This will initiate a video call which will show your friend what is in front of you. For this to work, you need to add an ‘ally’ through the ‘glasses’ menu in the Envision AI app. It will ask for their email address. Your ally will need to download the Envision Ally app in order to answer the video call.
I tested all of the features and whilst using Wi-Fi they worked really well, fast and accurate when it came to all the reading modes, including handwriting. I must say it is the best OCR I have used so far.
Some ideas for the future
I feel the biggest omission is that the device does not have its own light source to illuminate the text you want to read. I can imagine the developers of Google Glass didn’t believe a torch would be an important feature, so left it out.
Some features for the future could be a ‘low light’ message, voice commands, and the ability to ‘teach’ the device to recognise your objects, in the same way it recognises faces.
Overall, the Envision Glasses worked well and with good Wi-Fi and lighting conditions, you are good to go.
Find out more
Watch our video in which Mark gives an overview of the Envision Glasses, and put some of the features to the test.