Accidentally reading without sight

Once I had the vOICe installed on my smart glasses, I put them on and played with it. The vOICe is an app that takes images from a camera, and turns them into sound. If one is blind, which I am, it can provide a way to send visual information through the sense of hearing. It takes time and practice to learn. For more information, or to download a copy to play with, you can check out the seeing with sound website.

As I wandered around, listening to the strange sound of the soundscapes, now and again, the computer voice would say a letter or two. I didn’t understand what was happening until one day when I was sitting at my desk, watching something I’d seen before on Netflix. I like to put on some show or another that I already know, and use it as background noise while I work on other things. I can’t recall what show it was, but something was on, while my monitor was off.

I’d put on the smart glasses and fired up the vOICe. It’s rather dark in my room, so I wasn’t getting much sound to play with. As a quick in-easy-arm’s-reach source of light, I turned on my monitor. There, now the camera had enough light, and what it was seeing was getting turned into sound. As I moved my head around, I started hearing the computer voice reading out letters and fragments of words and sentences. I noticed that some of what I was hearing was the same as what the characters on the show were saying. After a bit of time moving around to center the screen in the camera view, I started to hear the same sentences as the dialog being spoken. I had the subtitles active on Netflix, though I didn’t realize it, and the vOICe was reading them to me.

In addition to turning camera images into soundscapes, the vOICe has several utilities that you can activate or turn off inside the options menu. One of those utilities will recognize printed text, and then read it aloud. For the most part, I find the extra utilities more distracting than helpful, at least at this stage. Still, the ability to casually read things like street signs could come in handy. It might also, if I’m willing to hold my head still enough for long enough, open up an entire realm of subtitled foreign language films.

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