Gadgets

The OrCam MyEye helps visually impaired people read and identify things


Meet the OrCam MyEye, a tiny wearable device that can give you secret powers if you have vision problems. It’s a tiny device that you clip to your glasses. It has a camera, a speaker and a cable that hooks up to a bigger device that is roughly the size of a smartphone. After that, you can use the OrCam MyEye to read stuff for you. We visited OrCam’s office in Jerusalem to try out the device.

Using it is quite intuitive, as you just need to point your finger at what you’re looking at and wait a couple of seconds. You can move your finger around or put the palm of your hand on the text to stop the device. It can read text in a newspaper, on a can of Coke, on a business card or anywhere really. If you’re holding the text upside down, the device tells you to turn it.

If you’re looking at a $10 bill, it’s going to tell you that it’s $10 (and not $20 for instance). And if you’re trying to read text in a foreign language, the OrCam MyEye is going to translate it without skipping a beat.

The second big feature is facial recognition. The device can help you figure out who’s in front of you. For instance, if you hear someone talking to you, you can just orient your face toward the person who’s speaking. The device will tell you the name of the person if you’ve previously recorded this face. And if it’s an unknown person, it’s going to give you hints (“a young woman is in front of you”).

You don’t need to pair the device with your phone, as all the processing happens on the device itself. It isn’t stored on a server across the world and it respects your privacy.

The OrCam MyEye has been available for a while. It costs $3,500, which is quite expensive. But it makes sense when you think about it as a medical assistive device — you should compare it to hearing aids, not Snap Spectacles.

But the company is already working on the next generation of the OrCam MyEye. While the official launch is still months away, it was quite impressive to play with it. Compared to the existing MyEye, it’s much smaller as it works without the cumbersome companion device. It feels like you’re just wearing normal glasses as there’s no wire behind your ear and you don’t need to carry around a brick in your pocket.

From a technological point of view, OrCam has developed some neat computer vision algorithms. Even more important, it’s interesting to see companies leveraging technology to drastically improve the daily life of a small group of people.


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