Is the ORCAM really an “Artificial Vision Device”?

Referencing article: http://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2335212

by Henry A Greene, OD, FAAO

A paper titled The Impact of a Novel Artificial Vision Device (OrCam) on the Quality of Life of Patients with End-Stage Glaucoma by Michael Waisbourd, et.al. appeared in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science in June 2015, Vol. 56 (see link to paper above). New technology to aid the visually impaired is always welcome and serves also to move the field forward, however we need to be careful to describe these products in a way that honestly represents their function and the benefit they provide.

photo of person wearing orcam
Photo from Orcam.com

The ORCAM, a portable head-born text-to-audio device that can be attached to eyeglasses, is a novel and potentially very helpful device to enable the visually impaired (as well as others) to access text material such as on signs, packaging, publications and also to aid in recognize faces and provide their names to the user via a bone conduction speaker.

Accessing printed material is often the first and major complaint and functional concern of individuals who are visually impaired and the ORCAM has the potential to effectively address that need.

However, calling the ORCAM an “Artificial Vision Device” misrepresents the innovative technology that it provides as it offers no visual enhancement, solely an audio presentation of items scanned by the device. While it may read text and recognize and name your friends, family and other items of interest, it does not allow the user to actually see them. So, while the device may well be of value to the user, it does not provide vision of any kind, and hence the “Artificial Vision” nomenclature is misleading both in terms of what it does and also what a potential user would expect it to provide.

I would not presume to have the right to suggest an alternate descriptive for the Orcam, but do hope that others might.

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