New wearable technology assists the visually impaired community
Young people are championing inclusivity, and new technology is making this more of a reality by enhancing the lives of people with visual impairments—from specially designed art exhibits to wearable technology that helps them better perform day-to-day tasks and navigate the world around them.
After three years of experimenting with various prototypes, South Korean startup Dot is releasing its braille smartwatch. Unlike other braille watches that use tactile signals or smartwatches that rely on audio feedback, the Dot watch has small, movable braille characters on the face that can communicate messages to the wearer. Using buttons on the side of the watch's face, the wearer can send simple replies or complete specific actions. Price will vary by country, but the company plans to ship 100,000 units this year. Dot is also working on braille e-readers.
Vision tech is a field with much room for advancement; the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is developing a wearable assistive device for people with visual impairments. The device, which is worn like a heart rate monitor and can be concealed under clothing, functions on a radar system. The system uses radio waves to sense solid objects nearby and communicate with the wearer using vibrations or audio feedback. In clinical testing, most participants were satisfied with the device and its ability to help them better navigate their surroundings.
Based out of the Urban-X startup accelerator in Brooklyn, WearWorks is producing the latest in the ever-growing realm of wearable technology—a haptic wristband to help those with visual impairments with directions. The wearable device easily connects with a smartphone app, and once set up, wearers can simply tell it where they want to go. The wristband uses vibrations to help users navigate; it remains static if the wearer is going in the right direction and it buzzes, simulating a virtual wall, if wearers are going the wrong way. WearWorks plans to launch the product in 2018.