Soul legend Stevie Wonder, who has been blind since infancy, thanks to a Dutch invention, can read a list of ingredients in the supermarket, view photos and even find his keys in the house.
The American singer practices in his house with 'smart' glasses, which were given as a gift by Delft inventors who want to storm the market with them. The Delft people met him at a trade fair in Los Angeles where tech companies show the aids they have developed for the disabled. To their great surprise, the soul legend suddenly arrived at their booth. ,,He stopped by our stand, after which we gave him a tour of our app. He stayed for an hour and a half and wanted to know everything," says CMO Vanessa Vigar of Envision, the start-up that developed the app and glasses.
The developers of the app, who graduated from TU Delft, which explain what their environment looks like to blind and partially sighted people, presented their invention at the annual fair (CSUN 2022). ,,Stevie Wonder turned out to attend this fair every year and was very interested in our product. We gave him a tour of what this app has to offer blind and partially sighted people in a secluded room. He was very excited.”
Vanessa Vigar hopes for a positive review of the app from soul hero Stevie Wonder. “We also gave him the smart glasses. He has promised that we can call him soon about his experiences. We are very curious.”
The development of Envision started at TU Delft, as a thesis by Karthik Mahadevan, who is now the CEO. Mahadevan came to the Netherlands from India in 2015 to follow a master's degree in industrial design. When he was invited during a vacation to talk about his profession at a school for the blind, he asked the students afterwards: what problems would you solve if you were a designer? Almost all answers showed that they mainly wanted to be more independent in daily life.
Inspired by this, he developed an app, back in Delft, that can recognize objects via artificial intelligence and then name them. But he can also read the text on a label or a bus timetable and convert it into speech. Uploading photos of friends also helps the app recognize people. The visually impaired can also appoint a so-called 'ally' (ally). This person can - on request - look through the camera of smart glasses and explain what can be seen. The start-up recently developed these glasses with Google Glass.
I myself have a genetic eye disease that means I can only see 40 percent - Vanessa Vigar, CMO
The company is now growing rapidly. The first version of the app was available in 2018. There are now more than 50,000 users, except in the Netherlands, but also in the United States, Japan and Germany. Envision itself employs two blind people and one visually impaired. "Because we know here how difficult it is for these people on the labor market," explains Vanessa Vigar. "I myself have a genetic eye disease that means I can only see 40 percent."
User of the Envision app and glasses, Miriam Karlsson (32), has been completely blind since she was a child. She has had the glasses and app for six months now, and they mainly give her more independence.
“For example, I can go through my mail myself. And when I go shopping, I can have the ingredients of a product read aloud. I can also scan larger texts and send them to my computer so I can read them in Braille. And if I can't find my keys or phone, I can walk around the room with the glasses and instruct me to find my keys. I've also appointed two allies that I can call if I'm in a situation I'm not good at assessing. These are my mother-in-law and my father - who by the way lives in Sweden, but also sometimes helps me from there.”
Translated the original article from: AD.nl