Google Glass has teamed up with Envision to bring AI to smart glasses that could be used to enable visually impaired users “see”.
AI-Driven Auditory Descriptions of the Environment Allow Users to “See” the World
While Google Glass failed to make the impact it intended to when it launched in 2014, the technology may still offer a vital solution to thousands around the world who are visually impaired. The tiny computer fitted to glasses, with a camera and speaker found itself having huge potential to revolutionize the way visually impaired people live their lives.
Founded in 2017, Netherlands-based tech company Envision already uses assistive technology and artificial intelligence to help those with visual impairments regain their independence. The company has developed a successful smartphone app that uses AI to assess the environment and speaks out about the world around the user, helping them to “see” what’s in their visual field through these auditory descriptions.
This week, Envision debuted its Envision glasses, a solution that is an augmentation of the AI-powered technology used in Google Glass to help them “see” the world as Envision’s app does.
Envision Glasses incorporate Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 along with optical character recognition (OCR) and computer vision software that can distinguish key features as well as more fine-grain details of what is in the wearer’s surroundings. The technology then provides auditory descriptions about the environment, using the Google Glass’ built-in speaker.
This is an improvement on the original Envision app which requires users to hold their smartphones up to their environment to use its camera to capture visual data which then uses AI to complete essential tasks, such as reading signs or recognizing people. This same software has now been incorporated into the Google Glass frames, which were considered to be the “best hardware to develop on”, especially given that both Google and Envision are both developed on Android. The combination of the technologies provides a more seamless solution that users can wear throughout the day to enhance their experience of the world.
How Envision Glasses Work
Envision Glasses are equipped with a number of useful capabilities for the visually impaired. The software can read text, with the capability to identify words rapidly and accurately in 60 languages. It can read aloud to the user with high levels of accuracy regardless of the substrate the text appears on, whether it’s text from a computer screen or on printed material, or even if it is handwriting.
In addition, the technology can recognize faces, find objects, detect colors, and describe the environment, allowing users to regain aspects of the visual world that they have lost. The glasses assist those with visual impairments in interacting with others, using public transport independently, moving safely around their homes and other environments, all daily tasks that can pose great challenges to those without a full sense of vision. Users can also select the option to have the Envision Glasses speak to them through either wired or Bluetooth wireless headphones instead of having them speak out loud.
The Envision Glasses retain the same hardware features as the standard Glass Enterprise Edition 2, meaning that they have a battery life of up to eight hours, WiFi and Bluetooth wireless features, a side-mounted touchpad, and USB-C connectivity. The Glasses also retain the original Google Glass screen, however, it is considered to be redundant for its use in this solution as the camera, processor, speaker, and touchpad, are the features relied on to run all necessary processes.
This week marked the debut of the product which won’t be available until August this year at the earliest. The Glasses are available for preorder at the reduced price of $1,699. The regular retail price of the product will be $2,099.