Tribeca Storyscapes just got over. Notes on Blindness won a lot of hearts. But what entices me is Tribeca’s move to augment Virtual Reality Technology to create empathy on all the issues they wished to discuss through the films showcased this year – be it racism, violence, environmental harm, and most importantly, blindness.
Notes on Blindness is based on the audio diaries of writer and academic John Hull, who faced deteriorating sight and eventually became completely blind in 1983. This movie showcases his inconceivable journey. The VR edition of the movie was broadcast at Storyscapes and allowed viewers to explore John’s cognitive and emotional experience of blindness. The movie was made on the Unity platform and is compatible with the Samsung Gear, Cardboard, and Oculus for the VR.
There’s much that has been written on Virtual Reality – both on the iRunway Blog and elsewhere. But it was the simple concept of Storyscape to harness this growing technology to convey its message got me excited to explore more of this space.
This iRunway Research report analyzes the popularity in the application of Virtual Reality technology for gaming, identifies monetization strategies adopted by top assignees and much more. For insights, click here.
eSight for the visually challenged
A few months ago, the social media world was stormed by a news that got the emotions welling up. Kathy Beitz, who was blind from birth, was able to see her newborn using eSight’s patented technology. Then there’s the touching story of Mark Cornell, a US Air Force veteran who was nearly blinded due to tick bite and lived with it for 20 years before eSight helped him see again.
All credit goes to eSight’s patented technology US8135227. This patent of eSight Corp. describes a method to improve the visual acuity of a visually impaired person. It determines areas where the retina is damaged, and accordingly processes the viewed image and displays it to the user in a manner that the damaged area of the retina is avoided.
Electronic glasses, such as those from eSight, are headsets enabled with a high-definition camera, OLED screen and virtual reality technology that supports video feed in real time. These glasses also allow switching of modes of view and access to peripheral vision, making the experience as real as possible for people like Kathy Beitz.
While the eSight glasses come with a price tag of $15,000, the technology is definitely blinding away the darkness of blindness for many.
See with your Ears
vOICe technology offered by ORA-X pretty much harnesses the method used by dolphins and bats. This VR vision technology invented for those who are completely blind provides the sophisticated rendering of images to sounds, giving the wearer an experience of live camera views. Facebook for the Blind can quite safely be termed a lesser evolution of this.
Microsoft gets down to navigation for the blind
Californian giant Microsoft is developing a smart glass built on the Alice Band to help the visually challenged navigate with ease. While many say it’s similar to the Google Glass, it is the use of the technology that makes a difference in this case. This device is fitted with sensors that bounce information off any tangible item – be it buildings, stations, buses – and provides navigation instructions through an earpiece fitted to the glass. The device is still being tested, but the below video should give a more healthy outlook.
This device for the blind from Microsoft is an offshoot of the company’s joint initiative of Cities Unlocked with a charity, Guide Dogs, and the government-backed initiative of Future Cities Catapult – a bid to create smart and friendly-for-all cities.
While Virtual Reality is tagged to be the mainstay of the future, such strides definitely make it a more wanted future, where everyone has an equal opportunity to vision. If the likes of Microsoft can unlock cities and make them equally comfortable and safe for lone travelers who are visually challenged, it does seem like a step towards Utopia.
Disclaimer – The featured image is the only representative and does not intend to show the users of the product as visually challenged.
(Featured image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pestoverde/16863422875)