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A Huge Tech Breakthrough for the Blind

Have you ever tried to imagine what it’s like to be blind?

Even closing your eyes for 30 seconds and trying to complete simple everyday tasks – like walking across the room, or fixing a bowl of cereal – is pretty tough. Try it – you’ll understand!

But this is the reality that blind people face every day. And needless to say, the things we find easy, or don’t even think about when we’re doing them, are much more difficult for the visually impaired.

But life is about to change big time for these folks…

This Technology is Powerful… And Wearable

When we mention “wearable technology” these days, we’re not just talking about space-age shirts made from fancy-sounding technology and boasting magical sweat-wicking powers.

We’re talking about mobile technology. High-tech gadgets designed to make life even easier and more convenient while we’re on the go.

For example, Google (GOOG) has developed Google Glass – wearable glasses that are essentially a mini smartphone right in front of your eye. A small, yet bold, Japanese company is taking on Google by developing a similar invention called Telepathy One.

We’ve also touched on the budding smartwatch market – and noted a crucial issue that could impede the industry’s growth prospects.

But technology is also solving more important problems through wearable devices.

OrCam is one company doing just that for the visually impaired…

Two Cool Technologies Combine to Produce One Life-Changing Product

The small Israeli startup company has developed an ingenious glasses device that identifies text and objects, and then relays the information to the person via audio.

It consists of two separate technologies…

~ Tech #1: A small wearable computer is attached to the frame of the person’s glasses. It’s equipped with a five-megapixel camera.

~ Tech #2: All the person needs to do is point at something and the camera conveys that information to the computer. The computer recognizes it and tells the person what they’re looking at via an earpiece. It does that through an artificial intelligence algorithm called Share Boost, which is able to read back text, and identify objects and faces.

Needless to say, with the number of objects in someone’s field of vision at any one time, it’s quite a feat for the program to recognize everything. But it does.

As OrCam’s Vice President of R&D, Dr. Yonatan Wexler, explains, “One of the hard things about visual perception is the huge amount of information. An algorithm that has to define a bus in a picture has to look through millions of pixels to find that bus. So we developed an algorithm called Share Boost that does this very efficiently – so efficiently that we can fit it in a small device and you can take it with you all day. So the user can stand in a city and look around and the device will find the bus among all the pixels in that picture and all the pixels throughout the day. This is what’s unique about our technology.”

What’s more, OrCam’s memory system stores the objects that it recognizes and continually adds to the user’s library.

Here’s the remarkable OrCam in action…

OrCam’s Co-Founder, Amnon Shashua, sums up the device: “The purpose of this system is to emulate a helper. Imagine someone standing beside you, looking at the same direction you’re looking at, understands what you’re looking at, understands what information you want to get out of the scene and simply whispers in your ear that particular information.”

OrCam is able to hold a charge for six hours. And while the company is still perfecting the device – such as its sensitivity to light – this is real breakthrough technology. OrCam retails for $2,500 and the device will go on sale next month.

Ahead of the tape,

Martin Denholm

P.S. Interested in more like this? Check out the Argus II glasses. It also harnesses wearable technology and allows people suffering from a particular form of progressive, degenerative blindness – retinitis pigmentosa – to see letters, shapes and patterns.

Martin Denholm

, Managing Editor

View More By Martin Denholm