Students with vision disabilities test technology of the future
Americas, July 26 2013
NEWTON, MA: For the past two weeks, a Boston-based tech start-up, Visus Technology, with help from the Verizon Innovation Program., has been testing a potentially life-altering interactive wireless system with a group of severely students with vision disabilities attending a summer enrichment program at the Carroll Center for the Blind. This technology, which is expected to soon be ready for public use, will allow people who are blind and low vision to recognize faces, determine colors, and navigate their travel with the help of wireless technology.
A group of students attending a summer enrichment program at the Carroll Center for the Blind has been introduced to the cutting edge technology known as the Visus Visual Assist System, a hands-free, assistive aid developed by Visus Technology, Inc. The solution takes advantage of Verizon’s 4G LTE network, and has been developed in collaboration with Verizon’s Innovation Center in Waltham.
Visus Technology’s Visual Assist System is the first wireless mobile system that provides access to a wide assortment of assistive applications, allowing people with vision disabilities to become more fully engaged and integrated into the classroom, workplace and society.
“Over the past two weeks, these kids have impacted the future of technology as we prepare for product launch,” according to Stephen J. McCormack, PhD the Chairman and CEO of Visus Technology, Inc.
The students, who were introduced to the technology in the first week of the summer program, demonstrated their new skills at their graduation held Thursday, July 18 at the Carroll Center. While the music function was immediately popular among the students, they quickly found that the color recognition program would be helpful in coordinating wardrobe choices and object recognition could distinguish household objects such as a container of ketchup versus the mustard.
“I can recognize some colors,” one visually impaired student said as he held a phone’s camera up to the tee-shirt he was wearing, “but this lets me know exactly what colors are on my shirt. It’s not just blue – it also has yellow lettering.” Another student laughed when his phone announced that the shirt he had selected to wear that day was ‘magenta.’ “I don’t even know what that color is,” he noted.
“Visus technology, in combination with the Verizon Wireless network, could completely change the lives of people with vision disabilities,” Dr. McCormack explained. “The meaning of the word ‘visus’ is the power of sight and we are truly on the path toward recreating that experience for people without vision.
Beginning last Monday (July 8) students at the Carroll Center for the Blind were introduced to the Visus platform using Verizon’s 4G LTE network on Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphones, provided by Samsung. Like most students their age, they were well acquainted with smartphone technology and quickly adapted to the assistive applications that were systematically added onto their phones. The response was resoundingly positive from these enthusiastic young people.
“I have seen few solutions that have the potential for changing the lives of those who are blind or low vision as Visus Technology’s,” said Brian Charlson, Carroll Center’s director of technology. “While it does not restore vision, it can provide many of the advantages of sight including color identification, facial recognition and the reading of print all around us. To do all of this and much more in a single solution is truly unique.”
While these students were the first to try out the new system, Carroll Center for the Blind President Joseph F. Abely noted that the applications within the Visus Visual Assist System would have wide appeal among people with vision disabilities.
“More than 60 percent of people with vision disabilitis are people over the age of 60,” he explained. “I would imagine they would love to have this technology in their hands. The Carroll Center for the Blind is all about giving newly people who are blind the confidence and the tools they need to regain their independence, so they can return to their community or the work place. The Visus Technology Visual Assist System is a groundbreaking step in that process.”