Top 5 Assistive Technology Devices for People who are Blind or have Low Vision [2023]

September 6, 2023
Text overlay: "Assistive Technology Devices for people who are Blind or Low Vision". Contains images of a woman tapping on her Envision Glasses, an image of a refreshable braille display alongside a traditional keyboard and a refreshable braille display connected to a laptop.

The field of assistive technology for people who are blind or have low vision has been making tremendous strides in recent years. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and computer vision, there are now a wide range of tools and devices available to help people who are blind or have low vision. For example, smart glasses that use computer vision to identify objects and text can provide real-time audio feedback to the wearer, articulating everyday visual information into speech. With each passing day, it seems that new and exciting innovations are emerging that promise to make life easier and more accessible for those who are blind or have low vision.

Here’s our pick of 5 highly useful assistive technology devices that can enhance the accessibility and independence of people who are blind. These devices provide better access to the world and enable users to overcome obstacles they may encounter in their daily lives.

AI Smart Glasses

AI smart glasses are a type of wearable assistive technology designed to help people who are blind or have low vision. These glasses typically use a combination of artificial intelligence, computer vision, and natural language processing to help users scan text, find objects, provide scene description and much more.

Envision Glasses are one of the most innovative AI powered smart glasses for those who are blind or low-vision. Among its many features, the most widely used are its text to speech capabilities which allow users to read mail, signboards, recipes and basically any text they might come across. Features like 'Find Objects' and 'Describe Scene' also provide users with a better sense of their surroundings.

A recent update saw an addition of the “Ask Envision” feature which gave users access to the GPT language model. With GPT integration, users can scan a document and ask the glasses questions about the content. For example, they can ask for a summary of the text or ask specific questions about the information in the document. 

Click on the video below for a practical demonstration of the “Ask Envision” feature:

With its powerful combination of AI, computer vision, and natural language processing, Envision Glasses represent a new standard in accessibility and independence for people who are blind or visually impaired. Whether you're navigating a crowded street or simply trying to read a menu at a restaurant, Envision Glasses can provide you with an unparalleled level of independence and accessibility. Envision Glasses retail at $1899 for the read edition, $2499 for the home edition and $3499 for the professional edition. 

Visit the link to learn more about the Envision Glasses or to book a free online demonstration with one of our team members.

Bone Conduction Headphones

Bone conduction headphones are a type of headphone that transmits sound through the bones in the skull, rather than through the air like traditional headphones. This allows the wearer to hear sound while still being able to hear ambient sounds, such as traffic or conversations, which can be useful for outdoor activities or instances where situational awareness is important.

Bone conduction headphones typically consist of a band that goes around the head and rests on the cheekbones, with small transducers that sit in front of the ears and vibrate to transmit sound through the bones. They can connect to devices via Bluetooth or wired connections, and some models may also have built-in microphones for making phone calls or using voice assistants.

In the most recent edition of Inclusive Innovations, Mike May, Chief Evangelist for GoodMaps and Founder at Sendero Group, spoke about the many benefits of bone conduction headphones. He stated that using traditional headphones in public spaces can be quite risky because they cover your ears, limiting important information from your surroundings, such as incoming vehicles.

Click here if you would like to listen to the entire speech given by Mike May at Inclusive Innovations 2023.

The cost of a basic bone conduction headphone can range from approximately $50 to $100. More advanced models with additional features, such as waterproofing, noise-cancellation, or longer battery life, can cost up to $300 or more.

Braille Keyboards

A Braille keyboard is a type of input device that allows users to type in Braille characters on a computer or other digital device. Braille keyboards typically feature six keys, each of which corresponds to one of the six dots in a Braille cell. When a user presses one or more of these keys, the corresponding dots are raised or lowered on a connected Braille display, which the user can read through touch.

Braille keyboards work by using electronic sensors to detect which keys are being pressed. When a key is pressed, it sends a signal to a microprocessor that processes the input and sends the appropriate signals to the connected Braille display. The display then raises or lowers the corresponding dots, allowing the user to read the output.

Braille keyboards can be connected to a variety of digital devices, including computers, smartphones, and tablets, and they are an important tool for people who are blind or visually impaired. By providing a way to input Braille characters, Braille keyboards make it possible for users to communicate and access information through touch, rather than relying solely on audio feedback.

Generally, basic Braille keyboards can range from around $100 to $500, while more advanced models with additional features like Bluetooth connectivity and built-in speech synthesis can cost upwards of $1000.

Braille Displays

A Braille display is an assistive technology device that allows people who are blind or visually impaired to read digital content using Braille characters. Braille displays typically consist of a row of cells with small pins that can be raised or lowered to form Braille characters. These cells are controlled electronically and can be used to display text from a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

When connected to a device, a Braille display can output text in real-time, allowing the user to read and navigate digital content using Braille. This can be particularly useful for activities such as reading emails, browsing the web, or using applications that have Braille support.

Braille displays can vary in size and the number of cells they have, with some models having as few as 20 cells, while others may have up to 80 or more cells. The larger displays are typically more expensive, but can provide more detailed and comprehensive access to digital content.

A basic Braille display with 14-20 cells can range from approximately $1,500 to $3,000. Larger displays with 40-80 cells or more can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $10,000 or more

A man using a refreshable braille display in combination with a traditional computer keyboard.

Audio Labelers

Audio Labelers are devices that enable people who are blind or visually impaired to label items in their environment with spoken audio labels. These labels can then be played back using a special reader or scanner, allowing the user to identify and locate the item more easily.

Audio Labelers typically consist of a handheld device with a microphone and speaker, as well as a set of special labels that can be affixed to items in the user's environment. The user records a spoken label for each item using the device's microphone, and then affixes the corresponding label to the item. When the user later wants to identify the item, they can scan the label using a reader or scanner, which will play back the corresponding spoken label.

Audio Labelers can be a useful tool for people who are blind or visually impaired, as they can help to increase independence and mobility by providing a way to easily identify and locate items in the user's environment. They can also be used to label items in public places, such as in a classroom or workplace, to help the user navigate unfamiliar environments more easily.

The cost of a basic Audio Labeler can range from approximately $20 to $50. However, more advanced models with additional features, such as the ability to store multiple labels or connect to a computer, can cost up to $200 or more.

Conclusion

Advancements in technology are revolutionizing the ways in which people who are blind can connect with and navigate the world around them. These innovative devices each offer unique features that empower users to live more independently. Whether it's using voice or braille displays to send and receive information, or gaining a greater understanding of their environment through object recognition and people identification, these technologies are transforming the way people with blindness and low vision interact with the world.

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