Israeli Invention Gives Blind a Way to 'See' Faces

OrCam, a tiny wearable computer, uses audio feedback to relay visual data; it can even help the blind read.

A new device called OrCam could be life-changing for the visually impaired and blind: The tiny wearable computer uses audio feedback to relay visual information that they can't see, enabling them to take on new tasks they were unable to perform alone before.

The device works with a 5-mega pixel camera that attaches to spectacles. It is capable of reading text and with the help of the user, can be taught to recognize faces and objects, says computer sciences professor Amnon Shashua, cofounder of the Israeli startup OrCam Technologies.

The Orcam invention is based on a computer-vision algorithm called 'Share Boost,' which researcher Yonatan Wexler says has improved artificial intelligence. The device can work for up to six hours before needing recharging.

One of the benefits of OrCam is that it has a memory system that stores the objects it recognizes and continually adds to the users library.

Researchers say there are still a few kinks to iron out - most importantly the device's sensitivity to light and surfaces that are not flat.

The device will go on sale in the U.S. in September and will retail at $2,500.

Amnon Shashua is also well-known in Israeli tech circles for being a co-founder of another striking technology company, Mobileye, founded in 1999. Yet again it involves vision - in this case, developing vision-based Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.Mobileye is also famed for achieving the respectable value of more than $1.5 billion, based on the latest investment in the firm.