Part 4: The future for the blind and visually impaired
The rise in smart home and office technology has delivered a whole new level of independence to the visually impaired. As more and more automation comes to the market, more options are becoming available for those learning to navigate the world with low vision or blindness. Keeping an eye on the upcoming technological advances that will make the world even more accessible provides hope to those who are learning to live in a sighted world without normal vision.
- Research more about the "smart cane." This prototype uses a camera, facial recognition software, and GPS to help people detect objects from at around 30 feet away. Though it is still a prototype, the freedom that this would give to protect vision impaired individuals while out in the community is huge.
- Self-driving cars will be a reality soon. Self-driving cars are the ultimate in independence technology for people with vision impairment. Often the inability to drive is one of the biggest restrictions. Though ridesharing and public transportation options are good, self-driving cars would eliminate the need to rely on other people for transportation needs, which is a huge barrier to true independence. The infrastructure may be in place as early as 2025 to make self-driving cars a possibility.
- Consider the benefits of robotic lawnmowers. The technology here is still new and expensive, but robotic lawnmowers operate on a similar idea as the robotic vacuum. Using a robotic lawnmower involves setting up perimeters around your property, which guide the lawn mower as it cuts your lawn. It may be cheaper at this point to simply hire a lawn service, but the technology is in the works and may become easier and cheaper in the future.
- Addition of lasers to help navigate the environment. From hand-held devices to additions to the traditional cane and even helmets, lasers to measure the distance between people and obstacles are currently a focus of many studies. These may be incorporated into other assistive devices to make it easier for visually challenged individuals to walk and navigate independently.
- Braille tablets are in development. A dynamic tablet that presents Braille instead of text is under development at the moment. This device uses fluid or air to create Braille on a tablet surface, allowing for the use of multiple lines of text. This is an improvement over current Braille technology, which is often limited to one line of text and cannot be used for things like spreadsheets or graphs.
- Enjoy the view from the car with new adaptive technology. Ford has introduced Feel the View, which creates a vibrating image of the view outside the car’s window, so someone who cannot see well can feel what the terrain looks like outside the car window.
- Follow the development of the "bionic eye." This technology uses a chip implanted in the retina and a small, portable device combined with camera-enabled glasses to stimulate the perception of light in the retina of blind patients. This treatment is still pricey and in the testing phases, but shows promise for many people.
For more information about future technology that may help people with low vision or blindness navigate the world more easily, visit:
Losing one’s sight can present obstacles, but technological developments are making it easier for those with blindness or vision impairment to navigate the world independently. From bionic eyes that can help people see again to assistive technology at home that aid with daily tasks, technology is offering new solutions that can help create a more productive, fulfilling, and independent life with a comfortable and safe home living environment.