Over a quarter bilion people in the world have vision problems, whether impaired or total loss of vision. The most common reasons are macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. In response to the growing number of people affected by these diseases, companies of assistive technology for the visually impaired are finding better solutions. In recent years, vision-focused assistive technologies have grown by leaps and bounds.
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is not new, however. It started many decades ago, e.g. braille. Assistive technology is any device that aims to improve the functional capabilities of those with disabilities. Assistive technologies can go from simple ones to complex ones. Low tech forms include canes and lever doorknobs while high tech products include software for recognising voices and devices that generate speech.
As regards to vision loss or impairment, there are a number of products now specific to the level of impairment. One can find screen readers for the blind and screen magnifiers for those with low-vision. There are also video magnifiers and modern braille equipment (e.g. braille watches and braille printers).
An Array of Choices Abound
By the close of the last century, electronic technologies have transformed every industry imaginable. Assistive technologies are not spared, of course. Now, anyone can find a device that fits every single need with a number of add-ons.
People with some vision impairment (non-severe) can opt to have smart glasses to improve their reading and visual recognition. There is a pair of smart glasses that are wireless and ultra-lightweight. Through a handheld controller, commands can be delivered through voice. There is a camera attached to the glasses that take pictures of images and display them as larger images through the lenses. The magnification can go as high as 12 times the normal size of the image.
There is also a low vision e-glasses that are built to help wearers read, write, and recognise faces easily. It looks like traditional glasses but with an attachable camera mounted on one of the frames. Through this e-glasses, you can read many languages, detect color, see barcodes, and identify products.
For those with near to total loss of vision, one can find digital glasses that combine artificial intelligence with an eye-tracking software and 3D camera. This produces an e-glasses equipped with computer vision. With the software, adjustments can be made depending on the vision loss, optimising any image the wearer sees. This product’s eyewear can be personalised as well.
Another pair of e-glasses uses a VR (virtual reality) headset and a smartphone to customise magnification, allow for multiple viewing modes to respond to the wearer’s visual impairment, and utilise case scenarios via a software assistant to help the wearer do his tasks. In a way, the wearer need not use his hands to experience the world. Through voice commands, the assistant guides the wearer every step of the way.
Assistive technology for the visually impaired has greatly improved during the last two decades. Now, advanced software and cameras take the place of vision-related tasks. For anyone with vision problems, these technologies provide not only hope but a more vivid future for them to seize.