An OrCam MyEye device, which makes reading easier for visually- or reading-impaired students, has been donated to the University of Witwatersrand by the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the Israeli Embassy in South Africa.
The OrCam device, which will be used by the university’s Disability Rights Unit (DRU), makes reading easier and more accessible for any student experiencing vision loss or any other alternative reading impairment. The device offers students access to the latest developments in visual assistive technology, and will give members of the DRU an all-in-one solution to assist and empower students facing reading challenges.
“We hope that this OrCam device will help make learning more inclusive and accessible at the University of Witwatersrand, especially for students experiencing vision loss or reading impairments,” says Benji Shulman, director of public policy at the SAZF.
The device’s advanced smart camera captures an image of your surroundings and articulates the visual information out loud and in real-time.
Andrew Sam, an “adaptive technologist” at the DRU, says it is a solution that they have been interested in for a number of years.
“Not only does this donation does only enrich the life of one student but sends a powerful message of support and the importance of inclusivity to our entire Wits community,” he says.
Wits University registrar Carol Crossley says that Wits has one of the largest numbers of disabled students in the country.
“For our disabled students, this just provides so many opportunities and we are particularly proud of what we have been able to achieve. It is through ventures like this that we are enabled to secure partnerships, sponsorships, engagement from industry that allows us to offer this to our students.”
One of the standout features of the OrCam MyEye is its ability to function as a magnifier for pictures, handwriting, maths formulas, and text.
Similarly to Google Assistant or Apple SIri, it uses “Hey OrCam” voice activation: a user speaks an intuitive voice command to activate a feature, or to access a device setting, without using any screen, app, or cloud connectivity.
The device’s precision laser targeting captures and reads any text the user chooses. It offers seamless, real-time facial recognition, so that users know who is in front of them, and instantly identifies consumer products and read barcodes. It can also verify the denominations of paper currency, allowing the visually impaired to shop more independently, and identifies colours from surfaces like clothing.
The OrCam MyEye was selected by Time magazine for inclusion on its 2019 Best Inventions List of “groundbreaking inventions that are changing the way we live, work, play and think about what’s possible”.