I had sight for 30 years when I lost the vision in my left eye in 2004. By 2007 I did not have a great amount of useful vision left in my right eye and, living in Decatur, GA, I came to Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta for vision rehab training in 2008-2009.
I use a screen reader and a book reader on a daily basis, but there are many times where I have things that I need to read that are not in electronic format. So when I saw a tweet by CVI about a new device, which is essentially a pair of glasses, I was intrigued. These glasses are made by OrCam. I visited their website and liked what it said the glasses could do. Quickly, I signed up for a demo. In a nutshell I like them a lot!
The device consists of a pair of glasses frames, which have a very small camera attached to the right arm. A cable runs down from the camera unit to a control unit that you can put into a pocket or which will attach to a belt. On the control unit there are only 4 buttons, one for on/off/standby, two for volume up/down, and one that is called the trigger.
With the system powered on, when you press the trigger button the glasses will photograph whatever is in the line of sight and then they will try and read any text that is there. I often get back from grocery shopping and forget what order I've put items in different bags, and even if I do remember by the time they have been in the refrigerator for a couple of days, I'll have forgotten again which item is where. I also may not be able to recall the cooking instructions — is this meal best cooked in the oven or the microwave, and at what temperature or power level and for how long. This is mainly what I bought my OrCams for. When I hold a pizza box up in front of my face and press the trigger button I hear ingredients, nutritional information, cooking times and oven temperature.
The first outing I took my glasses to was a creative writing group where I participate each week. In addition to not being able to read handouts, I also have a terrible memory which makes it difficult for me to read anything I've written to the group, meaning I have to ask the tutor to read it out on my behalf. Equipped with my glasses and with an external speaker attached to the headphone jack, I aimed my glasses at the sheet of paper I was holding, and activated the glasses, which read the poem I had written for the group to hear.
I enjoyed this, because although it was still not in my reading voice, it was a different voice than the group had heard before. I always feel it is good for sighted people to gain a little experience of how we individuals with vision loss deal with the world.
I remember being amazed in the CVI VisAbility Store where they had a CCTV device called the Intel Reader. This reader was equipped with a video magnifier which also converted the text into speech so you could hear what was placed on the CCTV tray. Well now I admit to being equally amazed at the way a device as large as a CCTV has been shrunk down to something as small, light and portable as a pair of glasses.
OK, they are not inexpensive, the MyReader version, which only does the text to speech part, costs $2500 and the MyEye model which adds face and product recognition costs $3500. I am currently living at home with my parents but hope to be moving back into my own place sometime next year, and for me these glasses will make a tremendous difference in how successfully I make a go of this, and, to me, that makes them priceless.