Most high-tech glasses, like Google Glass, are geared toward putting more information in front of your eyes. That way, you aren’t always looking down at your phone.
That’s cool, but no one is actually making glasses themselves more useful for people who actually have trouble seeing. Until now.
A computer science professor at Berkeley, along with a few compatriots, recently published a paper about using “smart” glasses to cure vision problems.
The glasses work by using front-facing cameras that track incoming light and automatically adjust the lens to best fit your vision. You won’t need bifocals because the entire lens adjusts automatically so you can see at any distance.
The test model was built with an iPod touch, video camera and a variety of glasses. It worked, which means that this tech could be going home with you soon.
The OpenGlass Project is using Google Glass technology to develop applications that can help blind and visually impaired users identify objects and environments via established crowd-sourcing technologies.
The following videos demonstrate user trials of two OpenGlass applications in development that can inform blind and visually impaired users about critical features and/or objects in their environments:
- The first application, called Question-Answer, allows blind and visually impaired users to use Google Glass to take a picture with a question attached, which is sent to “the cloud” for answers from sighted respondents viaTwitter or Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform. The answer is read aloud to the user through the bone conduction speaker that is part of the Google Glass headset.
- The second application, called Memento, automatically recites notes when the blind or visually impaired user faces, or looks at, a recognizable scene. To use Memento, sighted users must first record descriptions or commentary about environmental features or a room setup. When a blind or visually impaired person using Google Glass approaches the same spot, Google Glass will recognize the feature or scene and read back the pre-recorded commentary.
OrCam, an Israeli start-up that has developed a camera-based system intended to give the visually impaired the ability to both “read” easily and move freely.
The OrCam device is a small camera worn in the style of Google Glass, connected by a thin cable to a portable computer designed to fit in the wearer’s pocket. The system clips on to the wearer’s glasses with a small magnet and uses a bone-conduction speaker to offer clear speech as it reads aloud the words or object pointed to by the user.
The system is designed to both recognize and speak “text in the wild,” a term used to describe newspaper articles as well as bus numbers, and objects as diverse as landmarks, traffic lights and the faces of friends.
It currently recognizes English-language text and beginning this week will be sold through the company’s Web site for $2,500, about the cost of a midrange hearing aid. It is the only product, so far, of the privately held company, which is part of the high-tech boom in Israel.
More ideas coming…