For over 10 years, Blindsight has been working on using computer vision to assist the blind, low-vision, and the aging population.
A research and development company, we have been working vigorously to bring new products and services to a market that can do more than just improve mobility for the visually impaired and aging, but provide tools that can lead to entrepreneurship and so much more.
Over the past 2 ½ years, we have taken great strides by expanding into distributed assistance services and also partnering with prominent institutions within the U.S. Blindsight is also actively expanding into Europe where the visually impaired and aging population there can also take advantage of the ways in which Blindsight can improve quality of life.
This expansion into Europe adds to the millions of individuals that Blindsight has already been working to help in the United States. These are individuals who have reduced independence due to mobility issues caused by aging or vision loss. By developing tools to increase independence, individuals can rely less on assisted living or in-home care. They can also rely less on loved ones who already have busy schedules of their own.
All of this began with the desire to make a difference. Mark Nitzberg and Alan Yuille embarked their mission over 20 years ago and that mission was to use computer vision to help the visually impaired. Ideas such as recognizing text and even face recognition were entertained with text detection being laid out first.
In 1996, the development of a handheld device that could read text from an LED display showed that Optical Character Recognition (OCR) could be used in this way. However, the device dropped ¾ of the text due to the need for more processing power. The National Eye Institute said that the success of such a device would be patently impossible, but Mark and Alan did not give up.
Years later, the iPhone and iPad would pave the way for applications to be created that could do amazing things. The chipsets were mature enough and became the platform of choice because of accessibility and use among the blind. This led to the development of Text Detective. The phone’s camera is aimed at printed text and that text is read back to the user. This is the first of the Handsight suite of mobile products. Add in Perkolator, which is a MacOS-based Perkins Keyboard that can make communication through text much easier for the blind and allow them to solidify their Braille skills, and the visually impaired is one step closer to being able to contribute more to the world.
All of the ideas that were presented before Blindsight and in Blindsight’s early days have been thoroughly researched to the point in which they have been tested or are being tested. For instance, Magnifier, when released, will assist low vision users by allowing them to use their iPad or iPhone to magnify text so that it is easier for them to see text and small objects. Face recognition is also still in the works, as well as a remote assistance service, known as Sight On Call, that can help the visually impaired and the elderly at the push of a button on their cell phone.
What started with the idea of “we can help” over twenty years ago is leading to a bright future because the many ideas are becoming reality. Blindsight is continually researching ways to make the blind and elderly more independent, mobile, and employable. This means a better quality of life for them and their loved ones.