With the world’s biggest consumer electronics show (CES) being held in Las Vegas earlier this month, we thought that we would do a triple for January and, over the next three weeks write VIDA Insights covering the best vision impairment friendly tech of 2017 and what we can look forward to in 2018 - there’s so much to say on this latter one we’ve split it over 2 posts.
This week is all about 2017 and I (Dave) have picked out what I considered to be the highlights for the year. In the following 2 weeks I’ll be sharing my thoughts about what to expect from 2018…
So what did 2017 bring… my picks, in no particular order, are:
‘Be My Eyes’ finally released their app for Android devices (the iOS App has been available for a while now), increasing the support network signed up to help people with a vision impairment using their very clever video link technology. I (Dave) tested this last year, getting video linked to a guy from Holland who helped me find something from my kitchen cupboard. Friends and I, whilst out at our local Indian restaurant, used the app to get help with reading the bill, however, the light in the restaurant was too dim for them to see the bill correctly on this occasion. It certainly has a place in my phone for emergencies and an app that everyone should have whether as a user or sighted helper!
In December Virgin Atlantic ‘flew’ in to the lead and launched their new in-flight entertainment (IEF) system specifically designed for their vision impaired passengers. It is a portable device, based on an iPad that includes speech driven, easy to navigate controls and menus and access to audio described content.
We saw the release of the second generation of the Amazon Echo with a new affordable price tag. This, along with its rival the Google Home, has made having a ‘Smart Hub or ‘Digital Assistant’ (I’m not sure what the correct term is for these devices yet) a standard item of equipment in most households (I got one from Santa!). Later this year we’re expecting to see the release of Microsoft’s Invoke that will use Cortana and Apple’s HomePod using Siri to join the dance floor but, as far as I’m concerned, they’re going to be too late to the party!
However, the biggest and, in my opinion, best advancement in 2017 was the release of Microsoft’s Seeing AI app for iOS devices. Seeing AI came to the UK in early December with the version 2 update following just a week later making this an app with multiple functions (or channels as they are called within the app) designed specifically for vision impaired users. The app enables both document and handwriting reading capability, face recognition, product recognition (using bar codes), scene preview, currency/note preview and a light sensor. Sadly, due to having an old iPhone 5S, I don’t get access to the currency/note preview and the product recognition channels as these require a higher camera resolution such as the ones found in the iPhone 6 or later. This app has rivalled (although they don’t admit it) the OrCam MyEye device not only because of its range of channels, but the fact that it is completely FREE!!!
There are many other improvements and updates to access technology software, devices and products that are improving the lives for people living with a vision impairment on a daily basis and I thank all the manufacturers for their ongoing developments and improvements.
If you have a different opinion and want to challenge my list or add something else, then please get in touch with us by commenting on this blog
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Our VIDA Insights...
Following our experiences from delivering our Vision Impairment Awareness training days over the past couple of years, we know that there’s loads more that we could talk about and examples we could have shared. Whilst these won’t be a substitute for our training, they will give you an insight (hence the name!) into our thoughts, observations and experiences from each of our perspectives - Dave’s living with sight loss and Vicky’s from being a sighted person and working alongside and supporting people who have sight loss.