Technological Advances Enhance the Lives of the Blind and Visually Impaired

Finding Dory
Finding Dory via

For several years technology for the blind and visually impaired focused primarily on meeting those needs that are most essential for day to day living. Today, technological advances also include products and services that enhance the quality of life for those with visual impairment through entertainment and leisure.

Disney and Pixar are utilizing new technology so that every fan will be able to enjoy Finding Dory when it comes to the big screen.

Blind and low vision audiences will be able to enjoy the movie through the enhancement of smart-syncing audio descriptive narration.

This technology allows those who are visually impaired to use smart-syncing narration through their own iPad or iPhone, allowing them to enjoy detailed audio description that narrates what is happening on the screen.

Blind and Low Vision Education Network New Zealand – has brought similar technology to the stage.

Last year funding from Auckland Council's Creative Communities provided audio-described performances for children with vision issues.

The children get headsets that allow them to not only hear the show, but also a verbal description of the action that is happening on stage. The audio-described performance starts before a show begins. The audience members get on stage and have the opportunity to touch and feel the props and costumes as well as hear from the musicians and actors about their roles in the program.

Technological breakthroughs also help the blind navigate their world in a new way. It may have just happened by fate, but in 2014, a chance encounter with a blind person, led an Italian innovative team to develop a wearable device that has the capability of describing a physical world to those who have little or no vision.

Two biomedical engineers encountered a blind person trying to maneuver their landscape by following the corners of buildings but due to street construction he was unable to recognize the landscape. The pair, Saverio Murgia and Luca Nardelli decided to take what they had learned from research that helps robots detect obstacles through artificial vision to another dimension by applying that same knowledge to help the blind and visually impaired. Their invention is coming very close to becoming a commercial product.

The device may look similar to a Sony Walkman in appearance but the small box contains something far more exciting than music. The box contains a battery and a Graphics Processing Unit that provide artificial vision to the visually impaired person. A special headset that holds two cameras films the environment and the information is sent to a GPU that processes the data in real time and sends verbal messages through bone conduction headphones. The device helps the wearer detect obstacles, identify people and objects, describe the environment, read text and so much more.

The technology is currently in testing but the prototype should launch in Italy by late 2016.

Technology continues to make tremendous strides in enhancing the lives of the blind and visually impaired. Everyday looks a little brighter through tomorrow's vision.

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