A close-up of the Dot smartwatch on a wrist. The silicone band is gray. The watch is aluminium with a white face. The face of the watch has several braille dots, some raised, with the word “DOT” printed small at the bottom.

2017 was a big year for assistive technology for the blind and visually impaired. While some products are still in development, it’s exciting to see so much in the works!

We’ve compiled 10 of our favorite tech advancements from the last year.

Which ones are you most excited about?

 

 

  1. Wayband by Wear.Works

This wearable device guides users to a specified location using vibration. The Wayband helps the visually impaired navigate the world unassisted, and it was used during the New York City Marathon for the first time in 2017.

Close-up of hands. The Wayband, a black device, is worn like a watch on the left hand. The right hand adjusts the device.

 

  1. Be My Eyes

This free mobile app connects visually impaired individuals with a sighted volunteer via video chat for assistance with everyday tasks. Sighted volunteers can help someone check the expiration date on a carton of milk or figure out what color shirt to wear. It’s a perfect way to connect the two worlds and learn from each other.

A hand holds a phone displaying the blue and white set-up screen for Be My Eyes. The top of the screen reads: “Be My Eyes, 543,870 volunteers, 37,650 blind. Below this text there is an image of a globe with the text “Small acts of kindness with global impact.” There are two buttons below which read “I am blind or visually impaired’ and “I am a sighted volunteer”.

 

  1. Dot Smartwatch

Dot is the first tactile smartwatch. The device can tell the date and time and share notifications, with additional features available on an app. In addition to being useful technology, the watch also features a stylish, sleek design.

A close-up of the Dot smartwatch on a wrist. The silicone band is gray. The watch is aluminium with a white face. The face of the watch has several braille dots, some raised, with the word “DOT” printed small at the bottom.

 

  1. Tactile Text-to-Braille Converter

Developed by a team at MIT, this prototype hopes to bring text-to-braille conversion to a wider audience. Although this product is still in development, the goal is to make this technology affordable and accessible for the visually impaired community. About the width of a paperback book page, this device will be easy to carry around and use on the go.

A black, rectangular device with silver sides and white braille buttons on top. The word “Tactile” is printed in the upper left corner.

  1. Apple VoiceOver

Apple has enhanced its VoiceOver features, increasing accessibility for the visually impaired. With improvements to reading PDFs and email messages, Apple is working to integrate accessibility features more seamlessly into their overall operating system.

A MacBook Pro is open to a photo editing screen filled with a series of photos about Chinese opera. The primary photo shows a Chinese woman in a theatrical costume. Next to a color wheel is a pop-up screen meant to depict VoiceOver dialogue, which reads “Color Wheel selected, button,” representing the VoiceOver audio that would be read.

 

  1. The Read Read

The Read Read is an educational device that teaches Braille – without a teacher. Tablets for each letter are placed into a slot on the device. When a tablet is touched, audio mimicking the sound for each letter is heard. Available for pre-order, this technology grants independence to students, allowing them to study their ABCs anytime, anywhere.

A rectangular device sits on a table, surrounded by a series small tablets, each with a different letter of the alphabet printed on it. On the bottom are six slots to place the tablets. Three of the slots are filled with the letters T, A, and B to form the word “tab.” A hand rests on the letter A to read it, prompting the device to sound out the word. The sides of the rectangular device appear to fold in for storage

 

  1. BrainPort

BrainPort uses electro-tactile technology to help blind users with orientation, mobility, and object recognition. Available by prescription, BrainPort comprises a set of camera-equipped sunglasses that attach to a device that is placed in the user’s mouth. The device creates moving patterns on the user’s tongue (which some have described as pixels) that help them understand the objects in front of them. In fact, some users have even used it to help them climb mountains! You can learn more about that here.

A graphic depiction of the BrainPort. On the left, a black coffee mug. On the right, a gray, computer-simulated face wears sunglasses with a wire attached to a rectangular device placed on the tongue. Arrows indicate that the coffee mug is perceived by the camera in the sunglasses and then physically depicted on the tongue.

 

  1. The Talking Laundry Module

Developed by a self-taught 14-year-old programmer, the Talking Laundry Module is a small device that attaches to your washer and dryer and reads out various settings. The device is designed to help the visually impaired know how much time is left in their wash cycle and to select the correct settings. Now if only it could fold the laundry, too…

A small metal device with various cords extending from the top. On the face of the device are braille stickers next to a series of settings which read, N:Network, P: 12v Pwr, W:Wash Time, D:Dry Time, V:Volume.

  1. The Eye See

Developed by college students, the Eye See is a helmet prototype designed to help the visually impaired “see” the world around them. In addition to describing objects and people for the user, the helmet also emits a warning sound when the wearer is too close to an obstacle, making life on the go just a bit more safe.

A college-aged male stands in a hallway wearing a white shirt that says “Eye See” with an orange and black logo of an eye on it. He is wearing a red cloth wrapped around his eyes with a black and orange helmet and a black and orange device on his arm.

 

  1. Braille Tablet

Currently in development at the University of Michigan, this Braille tablet is the first of its kind. Designed to read entire pages of text rather than one line, this tablet will use air or fluid to push up braille letters, eliminating the need for excessive motors that would make the device too large.

A white tablet with a grey screen, with raised braille text across the screen. The bottom of the screen reads “Univeristy of Michigan” with the Michigan M logo in the bottom right corner.

 

What’s your favorite assistive technology? Share with us using our photo tool or submit your story to our #MyBlindStory blog. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

This is an informative post for our community.
BlindNewWorld was not paid to promote these products and receives no revenue from any purchases. 

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