Israeli Invention Benefits Visually Impaired

by Selin Gok, age 17

A new technology resembling Google Glass has the potential to help the visually impaired see through a new lens. Amnon Shashua, a well-known researcher and computer science professor at Hebrew University, has developed a new research for visually impaired individuals, making use of computer vision algorithms and artificial intelligence.

According to a 2011 National Health Survey by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, there are approximately 21.2 million individuals in the United States, 18 and older, who suffer from visual impairment. A representative at OrCam, an Israeli start-up company said there are 342 million adults worldwide who are visually impaired. 

The OrCam device is a small camera connected by a thin cable to a portable computer designed to fit in the user's pocket. The system is clipped onto the wearer's glasses, and has the ability to both recognize and speak English text, numbers, and objects for the user. 

The OrCam device can also recognize a pre-stored set of objects and expand its library simply by having the user point at the object or text with his or her finger. As of now, the device is only able to recognize English-language text.

Shashua and his team came across many challenges during the creation of the OrCam. For example, allowing quick optical character recognition in a variety of lighting conditions, and on flexible surfaces, like newspaper was difficult. 

The OrCam is unlike any other technology created for the visually impaired. It intuitively learns from the user to recognize new text and is simple to use. It also has a reasonable trade-off between accurate recognition and speed, unlike competing technologies that rely on more intensive computational power to mimic eyesight. 

“This is more complex than it appears and, as an expert, I find it really impressive,” stated an enthralled Tomaso Poggio, a computer vision scholar and a computer scientist at M.I.T.

[Source: The New York Times]

Great article Selin! What an amazing invention, I hope it reaches the public market soon – MashaMemorial High School (2014-09-16 17:40)