ORCAM a potential technology game changer for those with a visual impairment

Mark Belcher is Community Services Development Manager at Henshaws. He is a leading authority on technology developments for those with sight loss. Within this blog he reviews what is, in his opinion, a potentially game changing piece of wearable technology that uses artificial vision to help those with a visual impairment:

Yesterday I had a meeting with a representative from ORCAM and they brought along a very exciting wearable device that I want to tell you about.

Image of the OrCam glasses sitting on top of the box. Close-up image of a woman modelling the OrCam glasses.

What is it?

I’ve taken this statement from their website:

“An intuitive portable device with a smart camera mounted on the frames of your eyeglasses, ORCAM harnesses the power of Artificial Vision to assist people who are visually impaired. ORCAM recognizes text, products and faces, and speaks to you through a mini earpiece.”

It’s a standalone device that consists of a small smart camera and a base unit connected by a thin wire. The camera is tiny and weighs less than an ounce (about 29 grams) and the base unit weighs only a few ounces and is about the size of a glasses case.

The base unit contains all the necessary elements to make this device get to work; the hardware, the software and the all-important rechargeable battery. ORCAM say that the battery is designed to last for a full day of reasonable use. It comes with a plug-in international charger and two mounts so that you can attach it to multiple glasses and a travel case.

What does it do?

Firstly, what it does, it does well !… . I’ve had it in my hands long enough to understand this device is a game changer for some people, it’s intuitive, easy to understand/use and in my testing very accurate, although not perfect – but what is?

1) It reads

The device converts printed text to speech. You can read most digital text, such as that on a television or computer. It reads printed text, such as books, newspapers, food labels, restaurant menus, and even street signs.

2) It identifies people
The device identifies known faces. Basically, you take an image of the face you want to be able to recognise and add a name. The device will then announce the name of that person once they enter the camera’s view.

3) It recognises specific products
In a similar way to the face recognition, you can programme ORCAM to recognize objects  around you; e.g. consumer products, money notes and credit cards

How does it do it?

It’s magic! Well maybe not,  but I’m not in the position to tell you ‘how’ it actually works. I’m sure a boffin at ORCAM could explain how it literally does what is does but I’m betting I wouldn’t understand a word they tell me? What I can tell you is how you make it do its magic!

The ORCAM device responds to a simple intuitive gesture, you look at the item so the camera has a view then you can either point your finger and the device will automatically take an image or press the trigger button to manually take an image. It will then read aloud the text, face or pre-programmed product description.

Future Enhancements

Time stops for no person, so ORCAM are already working towards future enhancements. A further statement from their website:“In the future, ORCAM will be equipped with the ability to recognise places, colours and much more. Imagine using OrCam to orient yourself by reading outdoor signs and teaching it to memorise places you’ve already visited. It will be able to tell you which bus is coming towards you. ORCAM will even be able to tell you the colour of your clothes.”

What will it cost?

The ORCAM will retail at £2,200 but they currently have a pre-launch price of £1,600.

If you want to know more about ORCAM check out their website:  http://www.orcam.com/

If you want to check out some of their videos I’ve included a couple of direct links below: please note these videos give good audio description, but they are not ‘audio described’. I thought I would include these links for your convenience.

http://accessyoutube.org.uk/play/?v=ArNYhgVzExM&s=orcam&n=1

http://accessyoutube.org.uk/play/?v=4CyW04lSd4Y&s=Orcam&n=11

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Mark
Mark is Community Services Development Manager at Henshaws. He is a leading authority on technology developments for those with sight loss.