Seeing & Reading with Vision Systems

Source: NYTimes, Jun 2013

… the OrCam device is a small camera worn in the style of Google Glass, connected by a thin cable to a portable computer designed to fit in the wearer’s pocket. The system clips on to the wearer’s glasses with a small magnet and uses a bone-conduction speaker to offer clear speech as it reads aloud the words or object pointed to by the user.

The advance is the result of both rapidly improving computing processing power that can now be carried comfortably in a wearer’s pocket and the computer vision algorithm developed by the scientists.

The system is designed to both recognize and speak “text in the wild,” a term used to describe newspaper articles as well as bus numbers, and objects as diverse as landmarks, traffic lights and the faces of friends.

It currently recognizes English-language text and beginning this week will be sold through the company’s Web site for $2,500, about the cost of a midrange hearing aid. It is the only product, so far, of the privately held company, which is part of the high-tech boom in Israel.

In the United States, 21.2 million people over the age of 18 have some kind of visual impairment, including age-related conditions, diseases and birth defects, according to the 2011 National Health Survey by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. OrCam said that worldwide there were 342 million adults with significant visual impairment, and that 52 million of them had middle-class incomes.

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