In my former work life I was a librarian. I love being around books and reading. I cannot imagine a life without being able to read.

I have been working with a client who is blind and needs to read certain documents with both handwriting and typewritten text.   We have gone through options for this task, using his iPhone or his ORCAM; and I thought I would use the blog this week to describe the options we looked at and what challenges we had. Keep in mind, there are many other applications and systems out there, but I am just focusing on these few that we had readily available.

Seeing AI

Seeing AI is a free iOS app that narrates the world around you. Android systems have their own version called Envision AI which has a cost.

Designed for the low vision community, these apps harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to describe people, text, and objects. They have several channels and each channel (such as short text or handwriting) will accomplish different tasks.

Seeing AI with an iPhone
  • Reads short text
  • Scans and reads documents
  • Scans barcodes and identifies products
  • Reads currency
  • Describes color
  • Reads handwritten text
  • Requires Wi-Fi
  • Free app

KNFB Reader

KNFB Reader

The KNFB Reader is an app that provides scan and read technology in a portable easy-to-use format for people with vision or reading disabilities.  This app will take a picture of almost any printed document and then read it out loud to the user almost instantaneously. It will not read handwriting.

  • Can be used with Android, iOS or Windows 10 platforms
  • Scans text into speech or for Braille displays
  • Reads in a variety of languages
  • Allows the user to share and save documents
  • Does not require Wi-Fi
  • Cost is $99.99

 

Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes Photo credit: Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects people who are blind or visually impaired with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.

  • Connects the user with a volunteer over the phone which allows the user to point the camera on their phone to anything they might have a question about.
  • Can be used in so many ways; to read, to tell the user about their environment, to describe products, etc.
  • Can be used any time day or night
  • Requires Wi-Fi or data from phone
  • 161,000 users and almost 3,000,000 volunteers
  • Free app

 

OrCam MyEye2

Photo of man wearing glasses with small black OrCam connected to eyeglass frame
OrCam MyEye2
Photo credit: OrCam

OrCam MyEye 2 is a lightweight smart camera that attaches to the frame of virtually any glasses. Using AI technology, it instantly and discreetly reads printed and digital text aloud from any surface, recognizes faces, products, currency and more, all in real-time. The stand-alone device is operated by using hand gestures.

  • Reads text
  • Recognizes faces
  • Portable with a magnetic mount for an eyeglass frame
  • Identifies products
  • Works with wireless connection (no internet needed)
  • Can use voice commands
  • Cost is $4250 for the new version

 

Conclusion

The KNFB reader and the ORCAM reader did not pick up the handwriting on my client’s document. The Seeing AI app will pick up the typewritten text in the document channel and handwriting in the handwriting channel, but this is really not a good option either. The best option that we tried was the Be My Eyes app.  My client called on the Be My Eyes app and got a wonderful volunteer who had never gotten a call as a volunteer before and was happy to read the document. They ended up having a wonderful conversation, and we thought it was a success.

Again, I realize there are other options that are similar to the ones we tried. All the previous options have merit. They are tried and true for most circumstances. It just ended up that this document my client wanted read was more difficult because of the mixed handwritten and typewritten text.