New technology for visually impaired hailed as a game changer

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New technology is helping the visually impaired regain their independence. (KTRK)

Three percent of the world - 250 million people - are visually impaired, according to the World Health Organization.

Most vision technology created in the past wasn't portable and certainly wasn't wearable. But this new technology allows patients to not only use it for reading but also for common, day-to-day activities.

Ron Foster is an IT manager who spends a lot of time managing budgets. Back in 2010, he noticed his vision was affecting his job.

"I was having a lot of difficulties reading documents," Foster explains.

Foster has retinized pigmentosis, a hereditary degenerative disease of the retina.

"As it's progressed, I've lost all the vision in my left eye. I lost most of the vision in my right eye," Foster adds.

He tried several types of magnifying technology, including software for his computer that created a black background with white print. It helped but was still exhausting to use. Then, in early 2017 he learned about OrCam MyEye.

"The OrCam MyEye is relatively new technology that utilizes a special camera to use that video and convert it into speech," explains Carolyn Carman, a clinical professor and director of sight enhancement at the University of Houston.

The wearable technology includes a pair of glasses, an earbud and a clip-on base.

Foster just points to words on a document and OrCam MyEye takes a snapshot and reads the entire page.

It tells time, recognizes currency and has a database of over two million items to scan at the grocery store. It even includes facial recognition.

It's technology that Dr. Carman sees as an important part of our future.

"I'm very excited about this technology. I think it's a great advancement for us, and it's wonderful to add this to our tools that we can offer to patients with impairments or visual impairments," she says.

For Foster, it's added to his independence, work performance, and even husbandly duties like listening.

"I've been married for 37 years. I try to be a good listener, and I'm sometimes accused of not listening so well, but I do listen to this Orcam device very well," he jokingly says.

The OrCam MyEye with just the reading technology costs $2,500. The OrCam MyEye with the facial and currency recognition and barcode database costs $3,500. The OrCam MyEye is covered for qualifying veterans through the VA and for qualifying individuals through the Texas Workforce Commission.

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technologyhealthvisionuniversity of houstonHouston
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