Israeli start-up technology gives hope to the seeing impaired

OrCam was founded in 2010 by CTO Professor Amnon Shashua and CEO Ziv Aviram, who serve the same roles at Mobileye – the autonomous vehicle technology company.

OrCam (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
With a small device clipped to his eyeglasses and a book in hand, a radio DJ named Pedro stepped on stage at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on Sunday.
“It’s a life-changing device,” he told the audience. “It changed my life in so many ways. Now, in the privacy of my own house, I can read my mail.
I used to wait until somebody had the time to read the mail for me.”
Pedro, who went on to demonstrate how the device reads books aloud to him, was wearing the MyEye technology of OrCam – a Jerusalem-based start-up that uses artificial intelligence to drastically improve the lives of the visually impaired, the blind and individuals with reading disabilities.
MyEye devices can dictate any printed text or discreetly relay information to the wearer through a personal speaker when he or she points at an item. The units include a lightweight and inconspicuous smart camera mounted on the frame of a user’s eyeglasses, connected by a thin cable to a base unit about the size of a smartphone.
“When we thought about people who could use artificial vision, we thought about people who cannot see,” said Elad Serfaty, senior vice president of OrCam. “The thing they are lacking the most is education, information.”
OrCam was founded in 2010 by CTO Prof. Amnon Shashua and CEO Ziv Aviram, who serve the same roles at Mobileye – the autonomous-vehicle technology company that Intel acquired for $15 billion.
“We have created software that helps people to read, to detect faces, products, money, street signs – all of those in the same device,” Serfaty said.
When designing the company’s line of devices, engineers confronted a variety of challenges, including: making the technology wearable, providing long battery life and ensuring ease of use.
“We thought that a natural gesture, by pointing, would enable us to get information,” Serfaty said.
The $3,500 MyEye and the $2,500 MyReader, which has only the reading function, are available for purchase in various countries, and operate in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Hebrew. The devices soon will also be able to read Arabic, Russian, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish and certain Asian languages.
OrCam’s engineers are also working on a new technology called MyMe – a tiny device that can be clipped onto a shirt that will provide and catalogue useful information about the user’s daily activities, including facial recognition.