The Orcam My Eye

Today the
RNIB here in Northern Ireland
Held a demonstration of the
Orcam My Eye
Assistive technology device. There had been a lot of talk about the Orcam for ages, so i couldn’t wait for the device to come here so i could see it purely out of curiosity. I was delighted when the RNIB said it was coming here for a demonstration.

Orcam first started out in Jeruselem, before moving to the UK, the US and Ireland. There are two devices available-the Orcam My reader and the Orcam My Eye which was being demonstrated today.

The Orcam My Eye is a little tiny camera, which is about the size of your finger if not a little smaller. It sits on a piece of plastic called a bridge, which connects to any pair of glasses. The Orcam even comes with a pair of glasses if you don’t wear any. From the camera, there is a wire that connects to a base unit, which is about the size of a thick mobile phone. It came with a case that can clip on to your belt, although i am not sure if that is the standard case that it comes in. There is a bone conducting earphone that comes with it too. It is worn on the right side of a pair of glasses. The base unit also comes with a sd card to store products on and faces on. The guy running the session explained that the Orcam has about 4 hours active battery life, but it also has a “suspended” mode for when you’re not using it where it will last about a day or so before needing charged.

The Orcam is basically a portable scanner. It can read text and constantly scanns the area you are in however it deletes something as soon as it has read it, so you couldn’t, say, read a book and come back to it the next day, for example. It will only speak something if you make it by pressing a button on the base unit or pointing at something and waiting for it to read it. It also has product recognition and facial recognition built in, hence the sd card to store this information on. For the facial recognition, you would take 3 photographs of a person, before recording what you want this person to be called. When this person then comes in to the cameras’ view, it will say what you have named them. It’s the same for the product recognition. You have to take a photograph of it and record what you want something to be called. The guy running the session gave an example of if you had a bunch of cards in your wallet but didn’t know which was which, you could take a photo of one and it would say “bus pass”, while another could say “bank card”. It can store up to 150 faces and 150 products, so potentially, you could go in to a shop and take a photo of a can of beans, and then it would recognise all the cans of beans. Unfortunately though, it would read everything about the beans, for example, like the nutritional information, for instance.

The folks at Orcam say the device is not a miracle worker, and does not replace sight. I would think of it as a portable scanner with object and facial recognition. Apparently, you can use this with no vision, although you do need to know what you are looking at.

At the end of the session, we were allowed to try out the Orcam. I was expecting it to make the glasses really heavy and bulky, but it was quite comfortable to wear. It told me there were people sitting in front of me. I gave it a bus ticket to read and it read me all the terms and conditions on the back of the ticket. I didn’t know all that information was on a ticket, lol. The volume was a bit loud, but i presume that you can adjust it as and when needed. The only things it struggles to read are the likes of pictures and handwriting. It can’t read things in itallics either.

It does seem like a useful device, although you’d need to make use out of it as it’s not cheap at £2400 for the Orcam My Eye and £1800 for the My reader. This includes training in how to use the device, plus a 1 year waranty and a 30 day money back guarantee, apart from £160 for the training on how to use the device. Apparently, some charities and blindness societys do buy them so that people can try them before shelling out that kind of money.

In conclusion, it was a cool device, but i don’t think i could justify that ammount of money for a thing i would probably only use for the novalty and the fact that your phone could probably do a lot of what this does, minus the glasses.

I would like to thank the RNIB and the Orcam people for bringing it for a demonstration. It deffinetly is very interesting.

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