Smart glasses that use artificial intelligence to help blind and partially-sighted people will be showcased in Glasgow today.
The OrCam MyEye, developed by Israeli-based business OrCam, uses AI built into a smart camera on a wearer’s glasses and can recognise text from newspapers, street signs, supermarkets and other sources, relaying it back to the user through a built-in earpiece. The system also includes facial recognition software and can recognise names and faces from previous meetings.
“OrCam’s mission is to harness the power of artificial vision to improve the lives of people who are blind and partially sighted,” said Eliav Rodman, director of marketing at OrCam Technologies. “MyEye is the most advanced technology providing visual aid through a discreet, wearable platform and easy-to-use interface.”
OrCam on display at TechShare Europe
The glasses will be on display at TechShare Europe, organised by sight loss charity RNIB in the Glasgow Science Centre. The event aims to emphasise the revolutionary potential of new technology.
Other innovations on show will be a ‘driverless’ car that steers by a 360-degrees sensor system and an electronic braille-dot display that puts information at your fingertips. Speakers from technology giants Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft will all say how they plan to enhance the accessibility of their products.
Steve Tyler, head of solutions, strategy and planning at RNIB, said: “TechShare is already Europe’s leading accessible technology conference and this year’s is set to be the biggest one yet. The event regularly brings to Glasgow the leading technology professionals from across the globe along with people from health and social care, housing, transport, education and leisure.
“Improving accessibility for blind and partially sighted people to everyday products and activities is the hallmark of RNIB and it is great that the world’s biggest technology companies are helping to lead the way in making that happen.”
The Transport Systems Catapult, a ‘driverless’ pod soon to be launched as a public transport option in Milton Keynes, can safely navigate around people and obstacles. It could revolutionise the mobility of those who can’t drive, says developer Transport Systems Catapult, either because of disability, age or simply because they don’t own a car.
Numbers set to increase
Among high-profile speakers with sight loss, themselves, at the conference will be BBC journalist Emma Tracey, who will talk about using technology as a journalist and as a mother.
Around 188,000 people in Scotland have significant sight loss, and around two million across the UK. The figures are set to increase as we are an ageing population. At least 280 million people worldwide are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind.
But the case for accessible products rests not just on social inclusivity but hard economics, stresses Campbell Chalmers, director of RNIB Scotland.
“According to research last year by the Business Disability Forum,” he points out, “the ‘walk away pound’, representing lost revenue to businesses that don’t offer sufficient access for people with disabilities, was estimated at £1.8bn per month for UK businesses alone. That’s a huge untapped market.”
The TechShare conference will also challenge teams of student innovators from Scottish colleges and universities to design solutions to some everyday problems that blind and partially sighted people face. Organised by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, the students will pitch their ideas to the conference tomorrow, when a winner will be decided.