AI technology is changing how visually impaired people experience the world.
As technology advances, the potential for assistive devices to improve the lives of those with visual impairments is becoming a reality. One area that has seen significant growth in recent years is the development of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled smart glasses. Integrated with AI technology, these smart glasses can analyze the environment and provide real-time audio cues to the wearer, such as describing the objects around them or reading out text.
Some smart glasses also boast facial recognition functions, making it easier for the visually impaired to recognize and interact with people. This can be especially beneficial for those with difficulty recognizing faces due to conditions such as prosopagnosia, a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces.
Let’s take a look at three brands that are revolutionizing the way the visually impaired experience the world with their AI smart glasses.
Netherlands-based company Envision’s smart glasses are designed to assist people with low or no vision in various tasks using AI technology. Equipped with an 8-megapixel camera with a wide field of view, they can recognize text on any object in over 60 languages and read them aloud to the user through the built-in speaker.
Weighing less than 50 grams, the glasses are designed to be lightweight and comfortable to wear for a longer duration. Their battery life lasts for about five to six hours on a single charge, making them portable and easy to use for extended periods. Additionally, they feature the commonly used USB-C port for both power and wired headphones, making it easy to charge the device.
The glasses also come with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functions, allowing the user to stay connected to the internet and other devices. Wearers can operate the glasses both with a smartphone, through an iOS or Android app, and independently. Envision glasses run on a Qualcomm quad-core processor, a powerful and efficient processor that can handle the complex AI algorithms used in the glasses. The Envision Glasses are built on the Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2.
The glasses are available for purchase at the cost of US$3,500. They can be ordered directly from the company’s website or through a distributor. For those who want to try out Envision’s service before investing in its smart glasses, you can subscribe to its app, which uses the phone’s camera to scan text and provide information about the surrounding environment. The Envision app is available for a one-year subscription at US$20 or a lifetime subscription at US$99.
Launched by a Dubai-based startup, Amal Glass is a virtual assistant device in the form of smart glasses. They use AI and machine learning to process data from the surrounding environment and present it to the wearer through voice output. This technology allows the wearer to know more about their surroundings without needing a separate device like a smartphone.
The glasses also feature a GPS specifically designed to assist visually impaired individuals in identifying their location and the street they are on. They can then navigate the streets more easily and be informed of their remaining distance from their destination.
Apart from just being a virtual assistant device, the Amal glasses have a safety feature that provides users with an added sense of security. The device has an SOS service that allows users to share their location with others in case of an emergency. Users can send a “Help-Me” message and share their positions on maps and photos of their location, making it easier for others to come to their aid.
The glasses are equipped with multiple sensors and connect to a data processing unit that the user carries in their pocket via a thin wire. The device is enabled with both Wi-Fi and a 4G SIM card, allowing for internet access in areas where there is a mobile signal available.
The device is slightly heavier than regular sunglasses and can be controlled by a keypad on the right side of the frame. It can read printed text in both Arabic and English and convert it to speech via a small earpiece. Other features that the Amal Glass offers include the ability to read barcodes, identify currency denominations, provide prayer time alerts, play digital radio, expandable audio library and give aural time and date notifications on demand. Production of the Amal Glass began in Dubai in January 2020, and one pair costs US$1,500.
The Oxsight Onyx glasses are expertly crafted by a team of esteemed scientists and clinicians from the leading U.K.-based med-tech company Oxsight. Their extensive knowledge in the field has enabled them to create a device that effectively enhances the wearer’s remaining vision through AI technology. The glass is specifically created to assist people with central vision loss. They are also helpful for individuals who have other conditions like age-related macular degeneration, Stargardt or macular dystrophy.
The glass includes the ability to zoom into images. The onboard computer can process the images in real time on the OLED screens, enabling the wearer to perform a variety of daily tasks. The glasses are the smallest—up to 75 percent smaller compared to their competitors—and the lightest visual aid smart glasses in their category. These glasses can be worn on the face like regular glasses, used as a handheld magnifier or kept on a lanyard for easy accessibility when needed.
The Oxsight Onyx glasses have a battery life of up to two hours and are currently available in the U.K. for GBP1,499 plus VAT (about US$1,830)—a relatively affordable option compared to other similar wearable devices in its category. It also comes with a two-year warranty for added peace of mind for the customer.
Even though these glasses are yet to enter the mainstream market, we can already imagine how these glasses can change the lives of the visually impaired. The only con so far is the high price points of these smart glasses. However, as the industry grows and competition heats up between developers, the market will begin to open up, and these devices will be more affordable to benefit everyone who needs them.
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