I Was Blind, But Now AiSee

AiSee, a discreet wearable device, utilizes AI and a built-in camera to identify objects and restore independence to the visually impaired.

Nick Bild
2 months agoHealth & Medical Devices
AiSee can identify common items in grocery stores (📷: National University of Singapore)

Blindness and visual impairments affect millions of people worldwide, with varying degrees of severity. According to the World Health Organization, hundreds of millions of people globally live with a vision impairment, and 40 to 45 million are blind. For those with a significant vision impairment, the everyday activities that most of us take for granted can pose significant challenges.

To navigate their daily lives, individuals with blindness or visual impairments often rely on assistive devices to enhance their independence and mobility. One such device is the white cane, a simple yet invaluable tool that aids in obstacle detection and navigation. By sweeping the cane in front of them as they walk, individuals can detect changes in terrain and obstacles in their path, thereby reducing the risk of accidents.

Additionally, advancements in technology have led to the development of more sophisticated assistive devices, such as electronic travel aids and GPS-enabled navigation systems. These devices provide auditory or tactile feedback to users, helping them identify landmarks, intersections, and points of interest, thereby increasing their confidence and autonomy in unfamiliar environments.

Despite these advancements, individuals with blindness or visual impairments still encounter numerous challenges in their daily lives. Simple tasks, such as identifying specific items while shopping at the grocery store, can be extremely difficult or even impossible without assistance. But a new device, named AiSee, that was developed by engineers at the National University of Singapore could help to fill in the gaps in accessibility left by existing assistive technologies. AiSee is a wearable device that leverages the latest advancements in computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) to audibly inform users of the objects that are in front of them.

The device is unobtrusive, taking the form of a standard pair of bone conduction headphones. Hidden within the case is a forward-facing 13-megapixel camera that can capture high-resolution images of what the wearer sees. This is triggered by a button on the side of the headphones to protect the wearer’s privacy. When the button is pressed, an image is captured and wirelessly sent to a cloud service for processing by an AI algorithm.

If a match is found for any nearby items, a text-to-speech system will be utilized to provide information about them through the headphones. Interestingly, the device is also equipped with a microphone and speech-to-text capabilities. After an object has been identified, these capabilities can be leveraged to ask questions about it to gather additional information. This function is also supported by cloud-based services.

The researchers hope that AiSee will help visually-impaired and blind individuals to gain a greater level of independence. They also believe that the discreet design of the device will help it to be more widely used. Bulky devices can make users feel self-conscious, and often leads them to avoid using the systems in public spaces. AiSee, on the other hand, looks like a run-of-the-mill pair of bone conduction headphones.

Nick Bild
R&D, creativity, and building the next big thing you never knew you wanted are my specialties.
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