Vision impaired get second sight with artificial vision device

Smart camera fits on glasses to read, recognize faces

A device about the size of a finger is giving the visually impaired a second chance at reading books, newspapers and even facial recognition.

The device, developed by Jerusalem-based OrCam Technologies, is being marketed as the “OrCam-My Eye” a tiny smart camera with a built-in voice recorder-- think Alexa without the internet.

The device, currently used by an estimated 10,000 people worldwide, ranges in price from $2,500 to the wireless 2.0 for $4,500.

Dr. Bryan Wolynski, an optometrist specializing in treating low vision patients, said the system is impressive.

“It works across all spectrums of vision loss and all types of eye diseases,” Wolynski said.

Dorothy Boyd, 81, diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa signed up for the device 15 months ago.

The Titusville woman is one of 2,000 people using the Or Cam in the U.S.

The former elementary school teacher said her vision deficiency is a slow moving degenerative disease that finally caught up with her last year.

“Six months ago I got to the point where I could no longer  even read big print," Boyd said. “My field of vision has tunneled in to 4 degrees, that’s like looking through a straw.”

Boyd, married for 60 years to her husband and high school sweat heart Ronnie, has been using the portable version of the device that is connected by wires to a small battery pack.

Insurance does not cover the $3,500 cost for Boyd’s device, but the company does offer payment plans.

“It works by taking a photograph," Wolynski said. “Speaking the information thru a speaker that sits right next to your ear.”

Boyd said it was a life changer for her because it gave back her greatest passion, reading.

“OrCam has just opened up an area in my life that was closed down," Boyd said. “Because I was an avid reader … (now) I can just check the book out of the library or buy the book and point.”

The pointing gesture signals the camera to take a picture of the page you want to read, Boyd said she finished a book in a few hours.

Boyd said there is a learning curve but the high-tech seeing eye,  considered to be the “world’s most advanced wearable artificial vision device,” is very easy to use.

“Point at the page, we hear the beep and it starts reading,” Wolynski said.

Wolysnki said the 2.0 wireless device was just introduced, with more innovations expected within the next few years.

“It’s seeing for you,” Wolysnki said. “It does not depend on the vision that you have.”

For more information on the OrCam vision devices, go to orcam.com.

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