Tag Archives: Braille

Hearing is Seeing – with the OrCam

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Imagine yourself walking to the refrigerator of your local supermarket, with a quest for 1% strawberry flavored yogurt and not being able to distinguish between the 0%, 1%, 3%, and full fat containers, not to mention the chocolate, coffee, vanilla, strawberry, peach, and natural flavors. Why not? Because you are visually impaired.


Entering a library to check out Volume Three of War and Peace, and not being able to distinguish between the titles of the four volumes (plus epilogue) of this huge literary masterpiece.

At this point, you should be asking how people who are visually impaired are able to read non-Braille books anyway.

So, read on – and listen up!

OrCam, a young (2010) Israeli company has designed an audio device that uses visual sensors to light up the world for the visually-impaired. The device, consisting of a “seeing” sensor and an audio output that externally uses the little bones of the ear to conduct the signals coming from the sensor, is attached to a pair of glasses – yours or theirs – creating what OrCam cites as Artificial Vision. Just point to the object you want to read or see, then the OrCam sees it for you, and reads it to you.

Watch the video to see how the OrCam works and what it can do.

Here are some fascinating features of the OrCam:

  • Easy to learn and easy to use.
  • Reads to you from books, newspapers, and product descriptions.
  • Lets you distinguish between similar looking objects, for example different brands of cereal.
  • Is pre-programmed with a number of commonly known objects.
  • Can learn or edit objects based on your own familiar surroundings.
  • Can learn to recognize people you know and to remember their names.
  • Works with your own prescription glasses or frames from the company. Can even work with sunglasses.
  • Can operate with a hearing aid.
  • Intended for the visually-impaired but also a powerful aid for people with dyslexia or for sufferers of memory loss.
  • Currently priced at $2500, which seems like a small investment for such a huge quality-of-life improvement.

And here are some musings about the product:

  • Amazing how the sensor can distinguish between red and green traffic lights. But how about black and blue socks in a drawers? Does it have the sensitivity to read (and learn) duller colors or less distinguishable colors?
  • Can the sensor read script or handwriting?
  • Does the device use OCR, that is, Optical Character Recognition? Or is it really Object Character Recognition? In other words, is the same technology used to sense characters (such as letters and numbers) as well as objects, such as people, food products, and vehicles?
  • What powers the Orcam? How many hours of use are provided?
  • Although currently programmed to work with common, everyday objects, can it potentially be used in specialized areas of research; designing it to work in areas where more than 20/20 vision is required? Or where unusual, uncommon objects can be programmed to be recognized?

My late Father was visually-impaired, and then legally blind for most of his adult life. How he could have benefited from an aid such as this!

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