Technology is constantly advancing, and 2015 was not the exception! Many assistive technology products promise to change how those with vision loss read, get around and even “see” pictures in social media. Today, I am highlighting the top 5 assistive technology tools and products released in 2015 for people who are blind or visually impaired.
- Vario Ultra
Previously, Braille displays and notetakers were notorious for being bulky and heavy. The Vario Ultra is manufactured by Baum Retech, and is both a portable Braille display and notetaker. It supports up to six Bluetooth and USB connections with smart phones, tablets or computers. Users can read what’s on their iPad and laptop without needing to connect and disconnect each device separately.
- Connect 12
One of the main goals of assistive technology is to make products that are both accessible and inclusive to those with vision loss. HumanWare’s Prodigi Connect 12 tablet and magnifier is a perfect example of such products. This device has the functions of an Android tablet, and the popular Prodigi software provides magnification and OCR tools for low vision users.
While not intentionally designed for the visually impaired, our own Tom Perski from the Chicago Lighthouse’s assistive Technology Center thinks this vehicle can potentially allow those with low vision to get around independently. Designed by Organic Transport, the ELF is an electric bike with wing mirrors, head and tail lights, indicators and even a horn!
Manufactured by OrCam Technologies Ltd., the OrCam is a wearable camera that, when attached to a special pair of glasses, reads text and even has facial recognition capabilities. Blind and visually impaired people can do things like read restaurant menus, newspapers, food labels and even program it to recognize someone’s face! To use it, the blind or visually impaired user simply needs to look at the text or person they wish to identify.
- Facebook’s Accessibility Tool for Pictures
This tops off my list, because it is unlike anything seen before! Matt King is Facebook’s first blind engineer, and he hopes to give other blind individuals the ability to “see” the pictures on their news feed. He is currently working with Facebook’s accessibility team on an artificial intelligence based tool that will describe the photos people share, and they are slowly releasing it to the public. The tool is still a work in progress, but the Facebook accessibility team hopes that this will be the first of many alternatives to make pictures accessible to everyone.
Just as in previous years, the potential of assistive technology has amazed us all. Developers are constantly working to enhance their products and develop new options that will help those with vision loss be more independent. As an assistive technology user, I am sure looking forward to see what 2016 has in store for us all!