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The number of people suffering from blindness and visual impairment keeps on growing. According to the World Health Organization, there are about 40 million blind and 250 million visually impaired individuals around the world right now. These figures, however, are expected to rise in the following years as the generation faces higher rates of age-related disorders, such as glaucoma and diabetes. So, to respond to this worldwide dilemma and alleviate the effects of visual loss, Microsoft and other companies continue to promote smart technologies that can assist such people.
Seeing AI – Free world narrator
This Microsoft research project can provide assistance to people with low vision to blindness in navigating their daily lives. Seeing AI offers intelligent functions that basically “narrates” the world around us. Using the camera as the user’s eye to the environment, the app can speak short texts in front of the camera, scan barcodes for product information, provide details about a person, recognize currency notes, read handwritten text, describe images, and more.
Microsoft Soundscape – 3D sound map
Finding directions is one of the main challenges for the blinds. With this, Microsoft Soundscape is an excellent tool to help them locate places when walking on the streets. It uses the community-generated OpenStreetMap mapping data and will give users a detailed audio map. By setting an audio beacon to a particular destination, the app will guide a person on the walk by calling out roads and intersections. There are also other helpful features to instantly provide information about the user’s current location and details of the environment around them.
Microsoft Narrator – Integrated Windows reader
Reading texts on devices is possible with the screen reader in Microsoft Windows called Narrator. This Windows 10 built-in screen-reading app makes the Windows OS more accessible for blind and visually impaired users. It can read emails automatically, give the title of the webpage for a link and summary of a webpage, and more. There are also new improvements to the Narrator, such as its new ability to read next, current, and previous sentences; automatic scan mode; five verbosity levels; and new Standard keyboard layout.
Foresight Augmented Reality Bluetooth Beacons – Modern technology for easy access
People with disabilities can now navigate within formerly inaccessible environments for them. This is what Foresight Augmented Reality does by using Smartphone Apps together with Bluetooth, GPS, and Ultra-Wideband technology. It helps those with visual impairments be more independent by providing detailed information about their surrounding. It can locate bus stops and lead users to the correct office, suite, or section in a building.
Mobileye OrCam – Easy reading handheld
The OrCam is a wearable artificial vision technology meant for people with poor vision, blindness, or even reading difficulties. It can be handheld or attached to glasses to read text from any printed surface or digital screen using a small 13 MP camera. It can capture full pages and even allow users to choose where to begin reading. Then, the OrCam will whisper the content of the captured page or text through its built-in speaker or connected Bluetooth devices. Even more, it can do it in real-time and offline.