Could a new smart camera designed for the blind help my dyslexic daughter?
By Ruth Eglash (reprinted from the Washington Post)
At some point, after hours of speech therapy, countless consultations with child specialists and thousands of dollars spent without much progress to help my dyslexic daughter, Gefen, learn to read, I was at a loss for how to move forward.
Despite my own passion for reading and writing, I was about to give up and trust my worldly instincts that in the digital age, with cellphones and Siri, some clever gadget would eventually come along to help her make sense of letter groupings.
No one else could.
A visit this week to Jerusalem high-tech company, OrCam, indicated that my theory was not just derived from lazy parenting but a real intuition that evolving technology has huge potential for all matter of visual and learning difficulties.
OrCam was set up five years ago by the same folks who brought us the accident avoidance system Mobileye, that little camera that sits on your vehicle to stop it — or us — from colliding with a foreign object.
The company has been exploring the field of artificial intelligence and for now has settled on developing a device aimed primarily at enhancing the quality of life for the blind and visually impaired.
It’s called MyEye.
The device is comprised of a smart camera that attaches to a pair of glasses. The camera can be programmed to identify places, people and products. And, more important, it reads text. Not just one or two random words but entire books.
As well as helping those with vision disabilities, MyEye could also assist millions of children, like my daughter, keep pace with their classmates even as they take a bit longer to learn to read, or even if they never learn to read.
During our visit to OrCam, Gefen tried out MyEye. Setting a pair of blue plastic rimmed glasses on the bridge of her nose and using her finger to point at newspaper articles, a whole wealth of information opened up before her.
In real time, the camera scanned the sections of text she highlighted and read back to her in a computer generated voice what was written there.
“The device makes reading a technicality not a skill,” said Yonatan Wexler, OrCam’s executive vice president of research and development.
He said that as well as allowing people with low sight to improve their everyday lives, it could also become a tool for fighting illiteracy.
Mobileye co-founder Amnon Shashua, who also founded OrCam with partner Ziv Aviram, sees the technology in broader terms.
“We wanted to create something that would be moving with us all the time, something that would incorporate artificial intelligence and something that would benefit society,” he said. “I needed a market to justify investing millions of dollars in developing this, and this is it.”
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