Sharjah: New technology is making it easier for blind people to perform everyday tasks such as counting cash or using a smartphone, exhibitors at the ‘Sight ME’ show demonstrated in Sharjah last week.
The event at Expo Centre, organised by Emirates Association of the Visually Impaired, showcased the latest solutions developed by local and international exhibitors for people with visual disabilities.
First-time participants showcased new technology, seeking to introduce their products in the UAE.
South Korean brand Rivo showcased its namesake smartphone controller for blind persons. Rivo connects via Bluetooth to touchscreen smartphones and has physical buttons. The user feels the buttons, arranged as a dial-pad, and presses them to make calls or use apps. There are also four buttons on the right and left of the device for more controls.
Rivo’s buttons are plain – they do not use the raised dots of the Braille system for the blind, which would have slowed down the process and made users tired, said Jaewoo Ahn, CEO of Mobience, the company behind Rivo.
Instead, a small bump on the central number 5 key is used as a reference point and the user learns the location of all other keys by muscle memory. Rivo also confirms by voice prompt what button and app is used. With the ability to enter text also, Rivo enables users to send SMS.
“Many people use Rivo touch gestures just like a regular smartphone, that’s why we call it ‘freedom in my hand’,” Ahn said.
An American exhibitor, En-Vision, showcased ScripTalk, a device that reads out prescription bottles of patients who cannot read the labels. The bottles are marked with labels embedded with RIFD technology. When the bottles are placed on a small platform, the platform reads out the prescription on the label.
Another US participant, Patriot Vision Industries, demonstrated its Patriot virtual reality headset that uses a smartphone camera to magnify the view, create outlines of people and objects, enhance colours and contrast, and read out documents.
“The most common eye condition that Patriot is used for is macular degeneration. However there are others like glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy, than can potentially benefit as well,” Charles Palmer, Patriot’s sales and marketing director, told Gulf News.
The display modes can be changed simply by swiping a touchpad on the headset’s side.
UAE University undergraduates Mariam Rashid Al Shamsi and Mouza Darwish Al Maamari have created a smart wallet that detects the currency note put in or taken out. The wallet has an optical reader to recognise the notes and a speaker reads out the value of the note.
“This wallet empowers blind persons to be independent. It also allows them greater security against anyone trying to be dishonest in a cash transaction,” Al Shamsi, a first-year student of the university’s college of information technology (IT), said.
Al Maamari, a third-year IT student, said: “We wrote the code for the smart wallet using machine-learning and artificial intelligence. It was also showcased in the Think Science contest in Abu Dhabi last year.”