Alexa Is a Revelation for the Blind


Legally blind since age 18, my father missed out on the first digital revolution.

“Is it ‘Electra?’” my father asks, leaning in close to the Amazon Echo my mother has just installed. Leaning in close is his trademark maneuver: Dad has been legally blind since age 18, the result of a horrible car crash in 1954. He has lived, mostly successfully, with limited vision for the 64 years since.

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3D printed maps will enable the blind to navigate their city

3d maps

3D printed map.

While modern technology has benefited most of us by turning the things we consume from physical object into pixels on a screen, those with sight difficulties don’t get along well with visual stimuli or touchscreen devices. We have seen Yahoo! Japan develop Hands On Search, a project that lets blind kids carry out web searches with 3D printed results. Now the country’s governmental department GSI is creating software that will enable those with visual impairments to print out 3D versions of online maps.



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FingerReader enables visually impaired to read any printed or digital book



Louis Braille, in 1829, developed a tactile system that would allow those with vision impairment to read books. Braille uses a series of raised dots and the finger trails over a line of braille text and the reader interprets it, much like we do with standard letters of the alphabet that form words. Braille, however, does require some training to understand, and even now, most books, magazines, and newspapers are unavailable in braille format. MIT researchers have changed that problem with a new piece of wearable technology that reads books out loud to those with vision problems. (Video)



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First ‘bionic eye’ implants will hit the U.S. market this year

The treatment involves electrodes implanted in the eyes of people whose retinas are damaged.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first treatment that can restore (limited) eyesight to (some) blind people, last week.  It’s an exciting milestone, despite the caveats.



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Scientists restore sight to blind mice by regenerating optic nerve

lab mouse

Scientists restore vision to blind mice.

There are three blind men who have an inherited eye disorder that had destroyed the light-sensing cells of their retinas many years ago.  Now one of the blind men can walk around at night navigating by streetlight and headlights.  Another can read his own name.  And the third mean has been able to see his fiancée’s smile for the very first time.  All of this has been made possible by the retinal implants they have been fitted with.  The implants took over from the broken cells.  They sense incoming light by converting it into electrical impulses delivered to the brain.  They aren’t close to having 20/20 vision, but they have restored sight to people who have lived without it for years.

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