OrCam Smart Glasses
Have you heard these terms: smart goggles (looks like goggles for diving), smart glasses (or smartglasses; small device mounted on eyeglass frames), head-worn devices (different than headband devices like jewelers use), electronic glasses, low vision headsets, wearable technology? All of those words refer to a type of technology that you wear on or near your eyes to help you navigate and interpret your world.
Assistive devices and apps
You may be familiar with - you may already be using - devices and apps that magnify, convert text-to-speech, and enlarge text.
For example, one free app is SeeingAI that can convert text-to-speech, scan barcodes of products and speak what they are, recognize faces and the emotions on them, and identify currency and colors. With the app on your smartphone or tablet, all you have to do to use it is point your device’s camera at what you want to work with.
It’s a great app, but there are times when it’s just not convenient to hold the device up in front of you. What if you had a pair of glasses that you wore that could do all the things that SeeingAI or other apps can do? That’s where OrCam comes in.
What is OrCam?
OrCam is a device that magnetically attaches to any eyeglass frame making them smart glasses. You can take the device off and put it on easily. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to turn what you see into something that you hear.
What does OrCam do?
You use finger gestures and voice commands to:
- Convert text-to-speech which means it can read to you text from newspapers, books, street signs and other outdoor signs, menus, credit cards, labels on products at home or at the store
- Identify products that you ‘teach’ it
- Identify products from ones that OrCam provides
- Identify faces from those you ‘teach’ it
- If OrCam identifies a face, but it’s not one you’ve ‘taught’ it, it will tell you something like “there is a man in front of you”
- Identify colors
- Identify banknotes/paper money
- Tell time - look at your wrist and it will tell you the time
It does all that in 25 different languages!
Is OrCam a magnifier?
It’s not a magnifier. There’s nothing over your eyes like other smart glasses and goggles. Since magnification doesn’t help everyone, other smart glasses and goggles don’t work for everyone with a visual impairment. OrCam can help people with any type of visual impairment.
Is OrCam uncomfortable?
It is not heavy to wear. With other devices, it’s like you are wearing a smartphone on your face. With some you ARE wearing a smartphone on your face! The OrCam isn’t heavy - it’s lightweight.
It is not noticeable. The OrCam device is about the size of a pack of gum and is magnetically attached to one side of an eyeglass frame. If you don’t want others to hear what you’re hearing, you can connect OrCam to Bluetooth earphones.
Who can use OrCam?
They can work for children, adults, and older folks. They can be mounted on any eyeglass frame. They’re easy to learn to use. Someone with a hearing impairment may have a problem. You can connect them to Bluetooth earphones if that helps. In the future, they may be connected directly to hearing aids. You need to be able to use your hands to control it.
How much does OrCam cost?
For US veterans, if you are covered by VA health insurance, you are eligible for OrCam, including training to learn to use it, paid for by the Veterans Administration. Contact your local Veteran’s Administration facility.
First, they are not covered by insurance. The OrCam company offers financial assistance. There are several different models:
- OrCam MyEye 2: $4,250.
- OrCam MyReader 2: $3,250. It only has the text-to-speech features.
You get free online training, a 30-day money back guarantee, and a 2-year warranty.
Why are they so expensive?
People ask me all the time why they are so expensive. A lot of research went into developing the OrCam. It's about supply and demand. The market for them right now is relatively small. If you are employed and think that the OrCam can help you, contact your state's vocational rehabilitation department (different names in different states). There may be financial help available to you for this and other low vision aids.
How will I know if it's for me?
I would recommend that you first talk to your eye specialist. You might ask if he or she has any patients using them.
You might also do a search for ‘OrCam reviews 2019’ (2019 will ensure you are getting reviews of the current devices). I recommend that you make sure you are reading objective reviews, not just articles and videos that the company sponsors.
What else should I know about OrCam?
You can look at the User’s Manual on the OrCam site to get an idea about how easy it is to set up and use. The website says you can get an in-person demo which you might consider. The company also demos its products at expos and other events. You can find out more about this on their website.
If you decide to try them, you can buy them directly from the OrCam company, on Amazon.com, or on thelowvisionshop.com.
If you are using the OrCam, we’d love to hear how it is working for you.
Are you aware of assistive technology for AMD?