As Google advances its voice-enabled Google Glass technology out of beta testing and into general availability, similar technology is beginning to surface to help the blind, enabling them to walk into any library or store, pick up an item, and have it read to them.
Pia Celestino, Viurniel Sanchez, Jesus Amundarain, and Esam Mashni, all students at Florida International University, developed the EyeTalker concept as part of a student competition at school. The prototype has already pulled in investor dollars. It looks like a normal pair of dark sunglasses but features text-to-speech technology, two high-definition microcameras, an earphone, and lightweight components to enable blind people to hear printed material read to them. It also relies on target recognition technology that Sanchez, Amundarain, and Mashni had developed as part of an earlier senior research project funded by NASA and the Department of Defense.
Although EyeTalker is still in development, the team reportedly hopes to sell the glasses for about $200 each and wants to partner with organizations such as the Lighthouse for the Blind to provide the glasses for free to those who can't afford them. Other organizations for the blind have already started reaching out to the team, expressing an interest in the technology.
Testing continues as the team looks for a way to improve the product for durability. They are also building the product so it can be updated with other features, such as one in which EyeTalker can help individuals navigate without a walking stick, and another for translations in multiple languages.
The foursome, all of whom have since graduated from Florida International University, has launched a company, based in Coral Gables, FL, with a Web site, www.eyes4blind.com, to market the product.
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