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Jul 24, 2017,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Blindness: Five technologies for improving the everyday lives of the visually impaired

From glasses to bracelets and insoles, we bring you five smart devices, some of them still in development, that help the visually impaired get around and perceive the world around them.


High-tech innovations are coming to the aid of people with disabilities, not least the blind and partially sighted, who are now able to access valuable visual cues and information thanks to a series of new devices. Among them is Dot, a smart watch that has been under development for two years and which uses a braille display on the dial to tell the wearer the time. And like other wearable tech, it also relays health information and messages to the user.


Vibrating insoles  


Another device with the potential to revolutionise the lives of the visually impaired is the smart insole marketed by Indian company Lechal. Linking up with a smartphone GPS, the device allows the user to enter their chosen destination into the system. Once they are on their way, the insoles vibrate, telling the user the direction they need to take to get to where they want to go. The insoles retail at €160 a pair and come with an associated app for Android and iOS.





Smart glasses


The blind-friendly version of PivotHead smart glasses has been developed by a Microsoft software developer who lost his sight as a child. “One of my biggest dreams since I went to university was to have something that could tell me what was around me the whole time,” said the designer. In response, the developer came up with a pair of glasses and an app, Seeing AI, which provides the user with information on who is in front of them and what is going on around them. For instance, data provided by facial recognition software can tell the user the emotions expressed by the person facing them and their age. The glasses are available now for $299 (a little over €260) and the app will be launched shortly.  





Also on the market is a pair of augmented-reality glasses manufactured by the French company LightVision. Available since 2015 and retailing at between €2,000 and €3,000, the VIDI model is aimed at people suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which results in blurring or blind spots appearing in the field of vision and reduced visual acuity. In response, VIDI captures a real-time environmental image that the user can zoom in on while also changing the brightness and contrast, giving them a clearer view of what surrounds them.


Sonar device for detecting obstacles


Made possible thanks to a crowdfunding campaign, Sunu is a bracelet fitted with a proximity sensor that detects objects in the environment using ultrasonic technology, helping visually impaired users to get around more safely. Developed in Mexico and retailing at $249 (around €220), Sunu detects potential hazards and warns the user by vibrating when the object is nearby. Its only drawback is that it is less visible than other devices, which means that sighted people may not be immediately aware that the user is blind.   


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