UCD team designs new add-on reading glasses tech for the legally blind

OrCam--Courtesy of UCD

Researchers at the University of California-Davis report that glasses fitted with a miniature camera that uses optical character-recognition technology could help people who qualify as legally blind to read again.

The camera, dubbed the OrCam, is produced by OrCam Technologies based in Israel, and was released as a prototype in 2013. The device, which is mounted on eyeglasses, can recognize text and reads it to the user through an earpiece. It can also be programmed to recognize faces and commercial products.

The device could offer new hope to a burgeoning number of people suffering from age-related macular degeneration or advanced-stage glaucoma, researchers said. Their findings were published online in JAMA Ophthalmology.

"Age-related macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of blindness in the elderly and it has no cure in its advanced stages," Mark Mannis, co-author of the study and chair of the school's Department of Ophthalmology & Vision Science, said in a university news release. "This device offers hope to patients who are beyond medical or surgical therapy for the condition."

The study followed 12 people at an average age of 62 who suffer from low vision caused by a range of disorders, including age-related macular degeneration and end-stage glaucoma. After one week, all of the participants were able to perform nine of the 10 tasks--things like reading a newspaper, book, menu, or a text on a smartphone--and said they found the device easy to use.

"Patients with low vision often are dependent on hand-held or electronic magnifiers, which may be somewhat cumbersome to use," Elad Moisseiev, co-author of the study, said in the release.

According to the CDC, about 1.8 million people in the U.S. who are 50 or older suffer from age-related macular degeneration. That number is expected to hit 3 million by 2020.

- check out the UC Davis story
- get the journal abstract

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