In Brief
  • With the prevalence of the visually impaired estimated to be above 7.3 million adults in the U.S., this artificially intelligent wearable can restore quality of life.
  • Using artificial intelligence in conjunction with wearable technologies is leading toward innovation in accessibility for everyone.

A Seeing Eye

A new wearable aid for the blind and visually impaired people uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to better analyze fed data from cameras and sensors. The device is being developed by Swiss startup Eyra, and is named Horus, after the Egyptian god. Its an apt symbol since stories tell us that Horus lost his eye in a fight only to have it restored by another god.

Horus is a wrap-around headband equipped with two cameras to watch for what’s in front of the user. The images seen are narrated through earpieces that directly stimulate the tiny bones in the ear, with a technology called bone conduction. This way, the audio from the device does not interfere with surrounding noise and also does not disturb other people.

AI Vision

The brain of this whole setup is a Nvidia Tegra GPU, contained in a smartphone-sized box together with a battery that is connected to the wearable headgear by a 1 meter (3.3 feet) long cable. The device utilizes deep learning algorithms. It can recognize what and who the user is looking at, can describe visuals in great detail, and can even build a list of contacts based on face-detection. The processor can also read books or street signs. It can give visually-impaired people independence in navigation and mobility by having better 3D imaging that can promptly alert the user of obstacles and directions.

Horus is also accessible to the hearing impaired. Since the bone conduction technology does the work of the ear drum, if the hearing impairment stems from the external ear, the device will operate just as it does for the non-hearing impaired. Eyra has also developed an interface to connect with hearing aid systems.

Horus is expected to cost around US$2,000. Eyra is currently testing Horus in communities in Italy, and will launch wider beta programs in January next year before a full launch.

Artificial intelligence is about more than just robots and computers. With each development, great minds all across the world are using the revolutionary capabilities of the technology to help people in ways that, not very long ago, may have seemed like moonshots