Meditation & Health #21- Seeing the World Through Hearing
Seeing the World Through Hearing
By Ye Cha & Qing Cha
The visually impaired have long depended on the Braille system invented in the 1820s. Comprised of a 63-character set of raised dots, it allows people to read through their fingers. However, many books are not published in Braille. The literature available to the blind has been limited.
This is set to change. The 21st century is giving rise to several innovative wearable devices for the visually impaired that are making it possible to conveniently “see” the world through hearing.
The Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created a prototype 3D ring known as the FingerReader. As the name suggests, it is worn on the finger. With a small camera fitted on top of the ring, it monitors finger movements as the text is scanned, and FingerReader reads the text out with a synthesized voice. The smart device can detect when the user veers away from the line of text and gives haptic feedback to help them maintain a straight scanning motion. The vibrating sensors also alert the reader to the beginning and end of a line.
The creators of FingerReader seek to bring the lives of the visually impaired closer to the mainstream of the literate world by providing access to reading materials and educational resources, and even menus.
Another example of portable artificial vision technology, OrCam MyEye allows the visually impaired to hear text and identify objects. It is a miniature camera that attaches to the frame of the wearer’s glasses. The wearer can point at text on a computer or smartphone screen, bus information, labels on supermarket products, or storefronts and street signs. The technology recognizes the presence of text and converts it into speech through a built-in mini-speaker. Another feature is its ability to recognize faces and announce the names of people which were previously stored in the device.
These landmark technological innovations have the potential to significantly enhance the life experience of the visually impaired. Users can gain a greater degree of independence and a sense of freedom by “seeing” the world through their ears.