New glasses incorporate AI to help the visually impaired

Anyone who is blind or visually impaired can instantly list the everyday tasks that cause them frustration. Reading a menu at a restaurant, determining who is in a room when you enter, finding an open seat when boarding a bus or train, and telling the difference between various denominations of money just to name a few. What if there was a new product available that could do all of those things and more? The new glasses from Envision incorporate AI and a smartphone app to allow the low vision user  new way to experience their environment.  

Built for expandability

Envision glasses utilize Google glass enterprise edition 2, and AI to scan, read and OCR text in over 60 languages. In videos demonstrating the technology, the user activates a function on the glasses to take a picture of the text, which is then read out loud. This is good for paragraphs of text, but the glasses can also read small amounts of text in near real-time. The glasses and companion smartphone app are being developed like a platform allowing for quick updates and addition of features. So, other than reading text, what else can the Envision glasses do?

Basic features

The glasses offer scene description, including object detection, color and light detection and face recognition. The feature set of the glasses seem to tick many of the boxes that visually impaired users are looking for in this type of product.  The combination of the AI powered glasses and smartphone app seem to incorporate functions from several apps for low vision into one platform, with the promise of further development and feature addition.  

Call for help

The glasses can also handle video calling, allowing users to contact a trusted party to see what the user is seeing from their perspective and allowing them to offer assistance in real time. This can allow the user to navigate difficult situations which are outside of the functionality of the Envision glasses feature set. 

Tech Specs

From the Envision website:

  • Camera: An 8-MP camera with a wide field-of-view.
  • WIFI and Bluetooth
  • Battery: 5-6 hours with regular usage. USB-C supported fast charging.
  • Audio: Directional Mono Speaker, USB audio and Bluetooth audio.
  • Robust and Light: Water and Dust resistant. Weighs less than 50 grams.

What do they cost?

Assistive technology can often come with a bit of sticker shock in terms of cost. The Envision glasses cost $3500, and part or all of that cost may be covered by insurance depending on your plan. 

Thoughts

From the preview articles and videos I have reviewed, the new Envision glasses appear to have the features needed for daily use in a work or other environment. With a 5-6 hour battery life with regular use, and fast charging, users should be fine to get through a day, especially if they bring a battery pack just in case. The cost does not seem out of line for a specialty product, given that users may be able to offset that initial cost through insurance or other agency. For me personally, being able to walk in a room and have the scene described to me including who was there and the objects in the room would be a big benefit. In terms of travel, I can see the Envision glasses being invaluable when traveling to new destinations. I can see the usefulness for this product when finding your gate at the airport or train station, and being able to eventually use the self check-in kiosks unassisted. 

At the request of many of my readers here and on social media, I have reached out to Envision to see if I can procure a review unit so I can create a full breakdown of the functionality of the unit for you all.   

Resources

If you would like more information about the Envision glasses, here is a link to the manufacturer’s website, and a link to a California based news channel with a video preview of the glasses in action. 

https://www.letsenvision.com/envision-glasses

News Story

https://www.kpvi.com/interests/ca-high-tech-glasses-help-visually-impaired/video_822bf324-aaa4-50c9-82f0-624c338b081e.html

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