Could New Technology Help The Blind To See?

During the upcoming total solar eclipse over North America in April, special devices will enable blind and visually impaired individuals to experience the event.

This device, the LightSound box translates changing light into sounds. Created by a collaboration between astronomer Wanda Díaz-Merced and Harvard astronomer Allyson Bieryla, it produces different sounds corresponding to the brightness of the sun during the eclipse.

The Perkins Library in Massachusetts plans to broadcast the changing tones of the LightSound device over Zoom, allowing members to experience the eclipse remotely. Additionally, the Cadence tablet from Indiana’s Tactile Engineering will provide a tactile experience for others, including students from the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This tablet allows users to feel the movement of the moon over the sun, enhancing their connection to the event. Overall, these initiatives aim to make the eclipse accessible to individuals with visual impairments, ensuring that everyone can participate in this rare celestial occurrence.


How Has Technology Developed To Help The Visually Impaired?


Assistive technologies, as defined by the Technology Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988, encompass a broad range of tools and devices aimed at enhancing the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. These technologies can be categorised as “high tech” or “low tech,” ranging from simple items like canes and lever doorknobs to more sophisticated solutions like voice recognition software and augmentative communication devices.


Mobility Technology


In terms of mobility, service dogs play a crucial role in assisting individuals with specific disabilities, such as guiding those with visual impairments or aiding those with poor balance. Additionally, various types of canes, including the long cane, provide navigation support for individuals who are blind or have low vision.

Electronic mobility aids utilise ultrasonic waves to detect obstacles in front of the user, offering additional assistance in navigation. Examples include the Ray Electronic Mobility Aid and the UltraCane, which combine electronic aids with traditional long canes to enhance obstacle detection capabilities.


Assistance Technology


Reading assistance technologies cater to individuals who are blind or visually impaired by offering a variety of software and devices. These include screen readers like the JAWS Screen Reader and Kurzweil Education software, which convert text into speech or braille. Additionally, refreshable braille displays enable users to access digital content and read printed material.


The Science Eye By Science Corp


The Science Eye, developed by Science Corp., holds promise for restoring vision to those who are blind due to diseases affecting the eye’s light-sensing cells. This innovative device consists of a microLED display attached to a small electronic package. Implanted atop and within the eyeballs, it aims to stimulate remaining cells within the eye to receive and interpret light signals. The device boasts an impressive resolution, approximately eight times better than an iPhone 13, with about 16,000 pixels packed into its wafer-thin design.

To achieve vision restoration, Science Corp. employs a multifaceted approach. Firstly, a specially designed opsin is injected into the eye to modify retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), making them responsive to light. Then, the FlexLED device pulses light of specific wavelengths to stimulate the modified RGCs, sending signals to the brain. While not yet offering perfect vision, the Science Eye provides a semblance of sight, allowing individuals to navigate and interpret their surroundings. Ongoing research and development aim to refine the device’s efficacy and safety, paving the way for potential future applications beyond vision restoration.


Startups Giving The Gift Of Sight



GiveVision is a software suite designed to empower blind and visually impaired individuals through smart glasses technology. Developed by a team of three software engineers, two of whom are blind, the software converts visual information into audio cues, enhancing independence and mobility.

Compatible with any Android smart glasses with a camera, GiveVision’s features include a user interface for hands-free smartphone control, computer vision for object and text recognition, and magnification capabilities. The project, initiated in June 2014, has completed proof of market validation and is currently in closed beta testing.

With partnerships established with major UK blind charities, GiveVision aims to target the UK market, serving over 2 million visually impaired individuals. The company has garnered interest from numerous charities and is actively engaging in product development and distribution.



OrCam, an Israeli company founded by Professor Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram, introduces groundbreaking artificial vision devices to assist the blind and visually impaired. Their flagship product, the OrCam MyEye, is a voice-activated wearable device the size of a finger. Recognised as one of TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2019, it enables users to read, perform daily tasks, and live more independently.

Alongside the MyEye, OrCam offers the MyReader and OrCam Read devices, utilising smart cameras and AI algorithms to convert images into spoken words in real time. These devices provide essential functionalities like reading text aloud, facial recognition, identifying objects, colours, and more. Partnering with renowned football player Lionel Messi, OrCam aims to raise global awareness and promote equal access for the blind and visually impaired community.