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"I'm blind," he said, even as he met my gaze evenly.
When he said it, we almost didn't believe him since he navigated the large AirBnB so effortlessly.
The owner of the house, the two other guests, the owner's nurse friend, and I all looked at him in surprise. We all piled in the nurse's vehicle and on the way to a restaurant in western Baltimore, he explained how he was indeed blind, but that blindness had a spectrum. We were all dreadfully clueless in the subject, and listened curiously as he told us that he did have some vision, but that it was highly limited. It was enough that he could usually find his way around without the help of a service dog, but he couldn't read anything unless the text was very large and he held it very close to his face.
For me, an introvert, staying at a highly social AirBnB with four rooms, all with different guests, was a stressful experience. Making small talk is my mortal enemy, but this young man opened up to us and told us things about his life without any embarrassment or hesitation once we showed interest in them.
Though he was not completely blind, he still couldn't simply get glasses to fix his eyesight. As we talked about it more as a group, it became clear that not a lot of modern devices worked well for him. When people think of innovation, they usually think of new technology that makes daily life easier for everyone. However, the need for more specialized technology innovation is desperately needed, especially for the visually impaired.
Groups like the American Foundation for the Blind are working hard to promote awareness and support relevant research projects. They also share information on innovations like braille printers, which make it easier to share with people who are completely blind.
However, there are other devices out there that are even more helpful than a braille printer.
OrCam MyEye 2.0
The OrCam MyEye connects to an existing pair of glasses. It scans any sort of written information and can recite it out loud for the wearer. It's quick, having very little to absolutely no lag. For people with no vision or severely limited vision, it's incredibly helpful for making day-to-day life we take for granted easier.
In addition to reading out text, it can also recognize faces and identify products. The feature of being able to identify faces is highly praised by users of the device.
It's small and lightweight, so this wearable piece of technology isn't uncomfortable. If the person who wants to use the MyEye doesn't typically wear glasses, they can always don a pair of sunglasses or reading glasses so they have something to connect to.
Now, the MyEye 2.0 isn't cheap. The OrCam MyEye 2.0 on Amazon is retailing for $3,999. However, depending on your health insurance plan, you may be able to get partial or full coverage to purchase the device. OrCam also has information on how veterans can receive a free OrCam through the VA.
OrCam & the Dolphins Giving Special Holiday Gifts to Those Living with Blindness
OrCam is working to make partnerships with organizations committed to helping people. Recently, they teamed up with the Miami Dolphins’ Football Unites program, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, and the Israeli Consulate in Miami for a charity project. Four children and young adults suffering from severe visual impairments were selected to receive OrCam MyEye 2.0 units.
There's a slight learning curve for getting used to utilizing the MyEye to its full potential, but that's to be expected with any wearable technology. It's easy to use, but in case any users have troubles, OrCam offers one-on-one training sessions with their staff members.
The MyEye is completely wireless, and doesn't require an internet connection to function, so there's no need to worry about data or WiFi when you're running around with it. It's versatile, and can read either print or digital text without missing a beat.
Making the World More Accessible
I was intrigued about learning a little bit more about the OrCam and how the idea for it came about. It makes perfect sense and is quite practical, but there's always curiosity about how something new comes about. The company has been around for a while now, as it started back in 2010. Dr. Amnon Shashua and Mr. Ziv Aviram worked together to create OrCam. They have a history of working together, as they're also the co-founders of Mobileye, the collision avoidance system leader and autonomous driving innovator. One might think that a device like this one would be born out of a research project at a medical school, but it has a background quite rooted in business. The technologies for collision avoidance actually translated well into a device that detects and interprets text as well as other visual data.
The business background doesn't dampen OrCam's innovativeness. The first iteration of the OrCam MyEye device was launched in 2015. After more refining, as well as research and development, the next generation OrCam MyEye 2.0 came out in 2017.
Seeing technology change and advance is exciting, but it's also warming to see it happening with devices that directly help people. It's all well and nice to see innovation happening with computers or cell phones, but at the end of the day, how much do those bits of new technology actually impact peoples' lives? It's certainly not as much as a device for the visually impaired does. OrCam is trying to make new technology that can make a difference in the lives of the visually impaired.