Visit to Sight Village, 4th November 2015 by Michael Henriques

I visited Sight Village on the second day of the London exhibition. A large number of exhibitors were present at Sight Village, held this year at Kensington Town Hall. I was particularly keen to see two things: the Claria Vox mobile phone and the ORCAM camera.

The Claria Vox is based on an Android smartphone. It comes with a keypad template which overlays the screen allowing the user to locate specific points on the screen with their fingers. As well as using the Android operating system, the Claria Vox has a suite of applications which are especially designed with the visually impaired in mind. These apps are centred around a contact database from which you can choose to telephone, text or email people. The functionality is further extended via wi-fi connection. The handset also includes a GPS navigation system that allows you to find your current location and map your route when out, whether in the car, on public transport or on foot.

The phone has a range of other functions including a calendar that can be linked to a Gmail account, a simple calculator, a camera and video camera, a very powerful torch, a stopwatch and timer and alarm, a voice recorder and a web browser. An MP3 player is included for listening to music or talking books and a news reading app allows you to find out about the latest news from various news providers, for example, you can listen to the weather for the next 10 days! You can also access various radio stations through a wi-fi connection. Finally, there is a simple file manager that allows you to organise files received as attachments or organize pictures.

For more details, visit http://www.claria-vision.com/en/blind-users

The second item I wanted to see was the ORCAM camera glasses! In fact the glasses are simply a means to mount a special camera which is linked to an ear piece, providing an audio output that contains information about what the device is seeing. It is quite unbelievable! The ear piece rests on the outer ear, using “bone conduction” to ‘whisper’ what the device is seeing into your ear.

My sister was with me when I tried them – when I first pointed the camera towards her the device told me there was an unrecognised face but following a few simple instructions I was able to instruct the glasses “that is my sister”! As I then looked around the room, the device saw the ORCAM representative, the audio reporting his name, “Eliav”. Subsequently, during the demonstration the glasses were able to tell me whenever it saw my sister or Eliav.

I was impressed and wanted to investigate what else it can do. I learned that if look at a newspaper and point to the page with my finger the device would read the page back to me. This has great potential, meaning, for example, I could read menus in a restaurant, see road signs and, with further training, it could be taught to recognize everyday objects such as the ubiquitous can of supermarket baked beans. The device can read and recognise at a range of a couple of metres – i.e. at a conversational distance. The ORCAM device has the small power pack which weighs about 50 grams.

Further information on ORCAM can be found on their website at http://www.orcam.com/

While at Sight Village, I visited the Guide Dogs stand. They are working on a development that uses beacons to transmit location information to a Windows smartphone. This will then provide a feed of information on what is in your immediate vicinity. If you see a bus it might feasibly be able to tell you its bus number and route. Guide Dogs are also offering a system called “My Guide” which allows you to link up with a human being to help you to familiarise yourself with a particular route.

Information on My Guide is available online at https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/services/my-guide/

Another interesting device is the ultra cane. This is a long white cane with a difference – it had an ultrasonic detector in the end of the handle. This detects obstacles in your path using vibrations in the handle to inform you about the proximity of the object.

For more information visit their website at http://www.ultracane.com.

There were many more stands to see at the exhibition but by this stage I had exhausted myself but, all-in-all, there was plenty to see and some good new ideas being developed for the future.