On the practical application of artificial vision

On the practical application of artificial vision

My robo-eye is sitting in my desk at the moment. It’s a pair of smart glasses, with a camera built in. I put these things on and run the vOICe, an app that changes what the camera sees into sound. With practice, blind folk like me can use such a setup to help navigate the world. As it turned out, I found they could help me do that within a couple of days.

The first day or day and a half, all I did was play with it. I’d put on the glasses, stick in the earbuds, start up the vOICe, and just wander around my home. Later, I started experimenting, and paying attention to what I was hearing, and what different things in my house and yard sounded like. One of the easier things to recognize by the sound, is a vertical edge. Something like where a wall ends or a corner sticks out. It makes a very distinctive “fuztz” sound. That was instantly useful.

Even though I know the layout of my home extremely well, there are still a couple of places where I have to hold out a hand or arm, just to be certain I don’t hit this, or fall down that. With my robo-eye on, that becomes much faster. I can tell where the edge is, and whether or not I’m facing it. I still held out a hand to double check, but I could and did move much faster, and more smoothly.

Later, I’d pass by the danger spot without even holding out one of my limbs to check on it. That happened a couple of times, oddly, when I wasn’t really thinking about it. When I am paying attention, I chicken out and reach out to check it out.

Something that took some getting used to is where the camera sits. It’s way over on the left side of the glasses. The vOICe places sound more in the right ear when they’re on the right side of the image, and more in the left when something is on the left. Because of where the camera sits, when I hear something way over on the right, it’s more or less right in the middle of my face. I’m used to things heard that far over, being that far over, not right in front of me.

To get used to it, I tried it several times, backing up from and moving toward edges and corners, so I could figure out how the way that where something really is, relates to the way I hear it. The more I’ve practiced, the easier it’s become.

I’m going to have to be more systematic and disciplined about practicing. I would have started that already, but I wanted my earphones first. They’re designed not to block sounds from the environment, and I want and need all the information I can get.

For more info on the vOICe, you can check out their website.


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