Every once and a while a gadget comes around that restores our faith in technology. The latest, a pair of smart glasses campaigning on Japanese Kickstarter-equivalent Campfire, takes a device many people fear and uses it to help those who have difficulty reading.
Dubbed Oton, these camera-equipped glasses use two built-in lenses to detect text and convert it into voice. On the sides of the glasses are tiny earphones that say the words out loud to assist those with dyslexia or other visual complications.
Attached to the glasses’ lenses is a mirror that reflects an image of the user’s eye up to one of the cameras so it can detect eye movements and blinking. When the wearer blinks, they take a photo of the text they are looking at. That image gets sent to a Raspberry Pi where it is analyzed for text. If it picks up words, they get deciphered and sent back as an audio message to the glasses’ earpiece. If the system is unable to detect words, a remote worker can come in and do the work manually.
This same sort of technology is found in smartphone apps and built-in to Google’s translation service. However, looking through glasses is more natural and convenient than pointing a smartphone camera at text. Oton Glass says its product can be used by people with dyslexia, those with poor vision, and even tourists who can’t read a foreign language.
“The key is how we can let users experience the device as a part of their own body,” Oton Glass CEO Keisuke Shimakage told the Japanese Times. “Holding up a smartphone is not an instinctive human action, and it looks odd from the standpoint of other people as well. But seeing something through glasses is closer to people’s instinctive behavior. People often start to feel like glasses are part of their body as they use them.”
Oton Glass is now campaigning its first glasses on Campfire, a Japan-based crowdfunding platform. It hopes to make $93,800 and to sell each pair for $47. The company would eventually like to partner with non-profit organizations and hospitals so they can make them available to more people who need help reading.