Low Vision

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Aaron Leventhal from AI Squared joins us on the IAP for a great discussion about the assistive technology that is place right on the website - sitecues. Discover the innovation that went into this revolutionary approach.

Show Notes & Links

Researchers from the University of Alicante in Spain have developed a new smartphone application that uses a phone’s 3D camera to detect obstacles and warn people with vision disabilities. Nine people with vision disabilities tested the app by wearing a cell phone with a 3D camera on a lanyard around their neck. The binocular vision of the 3D camera allowed the software to estimate the distance of objects. The phone vibrated or sounded a tone when an object was closer than roughly six feet.

The team is also developing a version for Google Glass thanks to a grant they won from the Vodafone Spain Foundation in 2013 for a previous version of the app. A full version is expected to be available in 2015.

GW Micro, the maker of Window-Eyes and the ZoomText and Sitecues creator Ai Squared have come together, combining their talents to better assist computer users who are blind.

Window-Eyes is a screen reader which translates visual information into speech or Braille and recently struck a deal with Microsoft to offer its licenses for free to MS Office users. ZoomText is the number one screen magnifier and text-to-speech software package in the world. It allows people with visual impairments to easily use their computers.  

The need for assistive technology continues to grow. According to the World Health Organization, over 285 million people in the world are considered visually impaired; 39 million of those are blind, and 246 million have moderate to severe visual impairments. "The merger of Ai Squared and GW Micro brings together two companies that offer great solutions for the millions of Microsoft customers around the world who are blind or visually impaired," said Rob Sinclair, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft.

"We are also delighted that Ai Squared will continue to develop and support the Window-Eyes for Office Offer as many of our customers rely on this screen reading solution to enable access to Windows, Office and other Microsoft products," Sinclair said.

Dan Weirich, Co-founder of GW Micro and now Vice President at Ai Squared, said he is thrilled to incorporate Window-Eyes into the Ai Squared product family.

"It's a natural fit," Weirich said. "Combining our companies will strengthen Ai Squared's global presence in the assistive technology industry, allowing us to serve even more customers."

Weirich noted that many customers using web and computer accessibility tools inevitably progress further along the visual impairment spectrum during their lifetime. As a result, they will require more advanced assistive technology as their needs change. With the merger, Ai Squared will be in a better position to assist those customers, developing products that provide a seamless transition and user experience as customers adapt to their changing vision.

Ai Squared will continue to offer Window-Eyes and its related products as they were previously offered by GW Micro. In addition, a free and fully featured version of Window-Eyes will continue to be available via the Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office as part of the recently announced partnership with Microsoft and GW Micro. The GW Micro team will remain in Indiana as part of the Ai Squared team, which is headquartered in Vermont.

A new hardware and software bundle from Revel Systems provides features for people with vision disabilities. iPad touchscreens don’t naturally have tactile qualities making them difficult to be used independently and effectively by people with vision disabilities.

Revel’s new accessibility bundle allows people with vision disabilities to securely enter their debit card pin numbers or use signature screens when checking out. It uses Bluetooth enabled keyboards with textured keys to provide the necessary tactile sensitivity for people with vision disabilities to privately enter the information.

The online entertainment service, Crossway Media Solutions, is creating films and television that are more accessible for people with disabilities. They year they will launch TalkingFlix, which will be the first on-demand entertainment service that is audio-described for people with visual disabilities.  Their hope is to help sited and non-sighted people have a shared social experience.

TalkingFlix, a worldwide entertainment platform, will allow people to purchase or rent individual titles, or gain access to a growing library through a monthly subscription.

A patent application to embed cameras into contact lenses was filed by Google. The embedded microscopic cameras are designed to help the blind allowing the wearer to photograph their direct line of vision.

This could be a potential life-changing device for the blind. Among the potential applications for the lenses, the cameras and analysis components could process image data to determine if the user is approaching a busy street. This information could be conveyed to a device like a smart phone which could deliver an audible warning.

Enhancing the way users who are blind will use mobile devises, a new technology allows users to feel the screen. Senseg’s E-Sense technology is being developed in Sweden and recreates the sensation of different textures on touch screens. The technology uses “tixels,” or “tactile pixels” to generate and electric field above the screen’s surface enabling skin to feel finely tuned sensations replicating different textures.

The technology has far reaching implications for users who are blind and visually-impaired the most immediate being Braille reading.

EyeLens, a new app for Windows Phone, helps mobile phone users with visual impairments and that have trouble with color recognition. It can help people recognize color in everyday objects by displaying the name of the color. It also has filters and a zoom that can help visually impaired people read text on products newspapers and other things that may be difficult for them to see properly.

CVS/pharmacy now provides ScripTalk prescription labels for home delivery from its online pharmacy, CVS.com. The talking label provides a safe and convenient way to access the information on prescription labels for individuals who have vision disabilities or are blind and cannot read standard labels. Customers who wish to listen to the information on the ScripTalk label can obtain a free ScripTalk reader from Envision America.

More information on ScripTalk

Samsung has announced three new assistive technology accessories, which connect easily with the Galaxy Core Advanced, that add to the existing accessibility features on the devise. The accessories are designed for users who are blind or have low vision.

  • The Ultrasonic Cover: This innovative cover detects obstacles and helps users navigate unfamiliar surroundings by sending an alert through vibrations or Text-to-Speech feedback. The user holds the phone with the cover in front of them and it can detect people and objects up to two meters away.
  • The Optical Scan Stand: Allows the devise to recognize text from an image by positioning the device to focus on printed materials and activating the Optical Scan application.
  • The Vocal Label: Distinguishes objects by allowing the user to make notes and tag voice labels easily on-the-go. The user can record, stop and access their notes using NFC technology.

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