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Wearable tech that acts as a personal assistant for blind people

Horus is a piece of wearable technology that acts as a personal guide for people whose sight fails them.You can think of it as Google glass for the visually impaired, though we’re hoping success is more on this one’s side.

We can only imagine it’s an extremely welcome development in technology as millions of visually-impaired people struggle with day-to-day tasks as basic as crossing roads and reading.

Saverio Murgia and Luca Nardelli, founders of the Swiss artificial intelligence company Eyra which created Horus, were inspired to build the technology after coming across a blind man asking for help at a bus stop.

They listened to him explain the troubles he often encountered thanks to lack of sounds and signals on streets. Saverio and Luca were still in university, working on computer vision for robots, and they soon realised how the technology could be applied to help people with visual impairment. It’s quite the heart-warming story.

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Horus is built with two parts: the RST, containing the visual and balance sensors, and then the battery and processor. So it’s essentially a headset with cameras, which connect to a smartphone-sized device that can be kept in a person’s pocket or bag.

The cameras observe and understand the environment by sending images to the processor, this information is then translated into audible form, and described to the wearer like a helpful, non-crazy voice inside their head. Text reading and facial recognition are just two helpful components of the system and the more it’s used, the smarter little Horus gets.

There’s a graphics processing unit in the processor, and like an A-Grade student, the device learns and retains information, starting to recognise who and what it’s facing. At the press of a button the device can describe the environment, from faces to furniture, while volume and other settings can also be adjusted.

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Unlike an earphone, a person’s usual hearing is in no way affected because it uses bone conduction (the conduction of sound to the inner ear through the bones of the skull). This means the audio bypasses the ear canal and stimulates the tiny ear bones directly, and can only be heard by the wearer without interference, even in the noisiest of environments. If the user already uses a hearing aid, the system can connect directly to that.

Currently the voices in your head can be delivered in Italian, Japanese and English, but Eyra is working to get the system speaking more languages, to make it a more culturally diverse little friend in your ear.

There is a waiting list at this point, but online sales are expected start as early as next year.

About the author

Jess believes that the best stories come from exploring and discovering new thoughts, ideas, people, places & ways of doing things. In turn, she spends a large proportion of her time on the outskirts of her comfort zone, writing her blog, comfortisforwimps.com

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