The vOICe vision Africa (Pty) Ltd launched a revolutionary audio vision solution for the blind in Umhlanga, South Africa in January 2020.
The device called vOICe vision, which comprises goggles and an installed camera and bone conduction earphones is able to make a significant difference to a blind person’s way of life. With the help of a vOICe vision device any blind person can learn to perceive space through sound, move around without assistance, and be socially active and independent.
vOICe vision Africa, Managing Director Musa Makhunga, explains, “vOICe vision is where blind people are able to see with sound.” The device was developed by Dutch engineer, Peter Meijer, a former staff member of the Philips Corporation research department. He developed an algorithm of the sensory substitution of vision through sound. The device gives a sound image with up to several thousand pixels resolution, without dependence on the eye ailment’s condition and without any need for surgery.
The blind person can perceive space and objects through the sound signal received by the device as a result of encoding images from the camera. An app transforms the image into sound, which is perceived by the brain identically to the monochrome picture. The device can also vocalise text on signs and numbers of buildings, automatically or by manual control. It has features to identify and announce: objects’ colours, barcodes, and is able to name common objects in front of the camera.
According to the users’ reports the sounds of the device do not interrupt listening to sounds in the environment. You can control the volume of the device, and due to the bone-conduction earphones as ear canals are not blocked and natural echolocation continues taking place.
vOICe vision Africa offers training to blind people on the seeing with sound technique. Through training of an hour, three times a week, and practicing in between, it will take about three months for one to be competent and proficient with the technique.
Musa Makhunga said, “I am hoping that as South Africans we will be able to get our people to use this device. Through taking advantage of the vOICe Vision technology, we will be able to empower blind people. I am hoping that blind people will be able to participate more freely in a range of occupations and activities including sport through this device, that they were not able to do before.”
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