Assistive Technology for the Visually Impaired

Assistive technology for the visually impaired are items designed specifically to help people with vision loss or blindness. These items can include everything from screen readers, screen magnifiers for computer users, video magnifiers and other devices for reading and writing with low vision. This blog will focus on wearable technology, products that combine smartphone apps and physical products, and those products that build on existing technology.

Wearable Technology

Just as it sounds wearable technology are items which attach to your body and can travel with you. These can include watches, glasses, smartphones, and magnifiers. ILA carries several options in this category to assist those with vision impairments. Two of our newer items in this category are the Patriot Viewpoint Wearable Technology and the Cyber Eyez Trifecta.

The Patriot Viewpoint Wearable Technology is a wearable electronic magnifier with OCR provides handsfree magnification up to 20X. It can be used for close up or distance viewing. The OCR can scan and speak any printed material with just a few easy steps. The unit has touch pad controls on the side of the glasses. Product comes with both a phone jack and ear buds. Item weighs 1.1 pounds and has a 4-hour battery life.

The Cyber Eyez Trifecta is an exciting new product in the world of wearable technology. The complete package includes a Samsung Gear virtual reality headset, custom built wearable smart glasses with remote control, and a Samsung smartphone with the Cyber Eyez app pre-downloaded. The headset, glasses and app all perform virtually the same functions, using the same gestures and finger swipes to control each of the 3 devices. The choice of three devices allows a user to select the best device for a particular situation. VR headset can be great for extended viewing of TV or sporting events or sitting in a classroom. Smart glasses, available in small, medium, and large sizes, offer a more discreet and lightweight way to scan an area and grab your visual information. Results are displayed on the phone app. Glasses can also be ordered with custom prescriptions and with clear or tinted lenses. The app is best for quick grab and go tasks and doesn’t require putting anything on your head.

Technology Pairing Smartphone Apps with Physical Products

New technology advances also come in the form of products which are a combination of a smartphone app and a physical product or tag of some sort.  ILA proudly carries merchandise in this category including the WayTag series, Orbit Tracker Cards, and the Dot Watch.

The WayAround Starter Pack gives you a sampling of all of the different WayTags™, so you can try them out and decide which you like best. This Starter Pack contains 60 WayTags, including stickers, magnets, buttons, and clips. The WayAround product line is a combination of smartphone app and physical WayTags™ that allows you to tag and label nearly everything in your environment. Download the free app for either iPhone or Android onto your own smartphone.

Orbit Tracker Cards are Bluetooth trackers that will help you locate your valuable items using a free iOS or Android app. From your phone, you can page that item when it goes missing. Orbit Card is a credit card sized card that can slide into a wallet. Stop losing your stuff!

The Dot Watch is the first tactile smartwatch, with a 4 cell Braille display. This tactile smartwatch connects to a user’s smartphone or operates as a standalone tactile Braille watch. The wristband is magnetic mesh, for easy on-and-off. And it has quite a few features including standard watch alarms as well as Bluetooth connected notifications from your phone.

New Products That Build on Existing Technology

Many new assistive technology products build on existing technology, allowing users to work with familiar platforms but gain lots more additional functionality.  Examples of this include the Mercury 8 Electronic Magnifier and the Scanmarker Air.

Built on a full Android tablet platform, the Mercury 8 Electronic Magnifier with Speech is a durable handheld 8″ tablet magnifier with accurate full page OCR. This allows a user to both read magnified material on a large screen and to scan (via snapshot) and listen to that same printed material. In reading/OCR mode, a user can start and pause the speech, as well as follow the reading progress on the screen, while manipulating the size and color of the material being read. Mercury 8 features a wide 8-inch screen with rubber grips and a polycarbonate case designed for rough handling. It can also be used as a regular Android tablet with the full Android eco-system of apps.

The Scanmarker Air allows you to scan a single line of text using the Scanmarker “pen” and send that text to either your smartphone or computer, using either Bluetooth or USB connectivity. You can scan either directly into the Scanmarker app or to an external application such as Word. Within the Scanmarker app, scanned text can be read back to you, without the need for a voiceover function. Scanned text can automatically be translated into one of 40+ languages.

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