back to article Tech city types developing 'Google Glass for the blind' app

A new app and service aimed at people with sight impairments is being cooked up on Silicon Roundabout. The service, called Eyebridge, is being put together by Guy Curlewis and Andrew Law, who believe that a smartphone camera linked to a call centre could be of use to blind and poorly sighted people. Versions of Eyebridge …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So.. it's sort of like a voice activated real life doom/quake*, but with just fists?

    *(showing my age; whatever's the latest now)

  2. JimmyPage Silver badge


    My wife has MS, and is registered blind (although partially sighted). We went to a national exhibition for aids and adaptations last year, and it seemed every ****er and his dog had some "special" aid, which in reality was a crippled tablet/phablet/phone running Android, with a few custom apps.

    All of which was priced about 10x what it would have cost if you wanted the same thing *not* designed for the blind.

    The only thing we got which was of any use, was "Cocoons" - a pair of sunglasses which reduce the glare my wife experiences due to the optic neuritis.

    Meanwhile, back in the real world, 2 years after I looked into using voice control[1] for android, and deciding to wait until we had a decent phone (not a Wildfire) we get a Moto G (*Brilliant* btw) and I discover that **** all has moved on in the world of Android voice control. It's still pants.

    [1]To be fair this is voice control via bluetooth. If you start researching you realise that no one has ever, in the history of the world, wanted to use a BT headset to control their phone. The crushing irony is, my *Windows 8* phone, has seamless BT integration.

    Oh well.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Hmmmm

      Did you go to Sight Village? I'm afraid that the current situation is a hundred times better than it used to be, even 10 years ago. Because the NHS and local government have historically dominated purchasing, we weren't getting the shiny stuff they had in the US. Of course a large single market also made it easier for small companies to trade. Whereas export is harder.

      I went to one about five years ago, with the idea of starting an Internet business in this area. To try and get some of the American goodies over here. As well as to try and create an online community to talk about and review shiny tech. But a lot of that stuff had already got over here. Also, there's a lot of technology that can be repurposed to do the job. You can also pick up cheap magnifiers, binoculars, monoculars and the like. Stuff that simply wasn't affordable 10-20 years ago.

      To be fair to these companies, hardware production is still relatively expensive in small runs. It's a small market. And a lot of purchasing decisions are still being made by cautious bureaucrats. None of the kit that I get from the NHS is even vaguely close to the cutting edge of what's available. And they're still buying very expensive products from the same suppliers they always used. Even though there are now much cheaper options available. Probably because the people making the decisions haven't looked at what's available in the market since they trained.

      A chap in my office building was referred to a local resource centre with his wife, looking for stuff to help with her macular degeneration. I don't think any of the kit there was newer than 10 years old. Except some of the little portable CCTV's. Which are still better than trying to do the same job with a mobile phone camera. And now cost peanuts. However, all she needed to help with her reading was A4 Kindle, and help with setup. Sadly, the local library service, use Adobe Digital editions. Which is an utter pile of useless shit. It can't even enlarge text it's so primitive. It's also unable to authorise a better piece of software access content on the same device. So you'd have to authorise another laptop, in order to be able to use better software to read the content you downloaded to the first laptop. Or you just use available tools to crack the encryption. But that ended up being too much hassle, and so she stuck with the limited range of available large print books, and put up with the arthritis pain that manhandling these huge tomes causes. I guess it's still better than large print, where the Lord of the Rings runs to 13 volumes of 18 inch square and an inch thick.

  3. Daggersedge

    The video shows someone British answering the call, but the article says support will come from a call centre in the Philippines. Will some low-wage, probably poorly-trained worker in the Philippines really be able to help a blind person in England? Given the cultural differences - perhaps the call centre worker just won't know what he is looking at - and given the sort of scripts these workers often use, I really doubt it.

    Plus, pay by the minute? Looking at the Eyebridge website, the cheapest plan starts at £19.95 a month. Do the blind really have all that much money going spare?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It may be something the government subsidises.

      If enabling blind people to get out and more easily and independently get around means they can more effectively hold down a job, then this will help fund the service being subsidised.

      I just find it a little sad that we can't trust a passer-by to provide the information this fellow is racking up phone bills for. Blindness usually isn't a big impediment to conversing with people, not compared to say, deaf/mute, and I would have thought most people could be trusted to get basic facts right.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Asking for help is also an issue of independence for some people. Whereas, an app which you control and pay for, is a whole different kettle of fish.

        A chap I used to know, had a roving blind spot. Unpredictably so. He said one of the worst things was being helped across the road by little old ladies...

        When I've asked for help, there are plenty of times when I've got a bemused reaction, and been told that the information is on that sign over there. Even at so-called information points. Not that I'm saying people aren't mostly nice, because they are. I suppose one answer to this, would be to make things more obvious with a big fuck off pair of dark glasses. Or perhaps a flashing sign?

        I did confuse the bag search at Lord's, last time I was there. Then again two pairs of binoculars, monocular, reading glasses, distance glasses, and two types of sunglasses might be considered a little excessive by some.

        A lot of places seem to have just about worked out what wheelchairs are for, but do far less well with visual impairment, which is ironically easier. For example, 90% of museums put the item descriptions inside the display case. Usually in about 14 point type. So not only is it far away, but it's behind a distorting and reflective layer of glass. The cost of putting 2 signs (at either end), on the outside of the case, in say 20 point type is basically bugger all. Admittedly decent audio guides are a lot harder. But then, with proper signage, wouldn't be needed by as many people.

        My local council, have just replaced the orange LED signage on the bus stops, with far prettier LCD screens that show adverts. Shame no one thought that LCDs aren't readable in sunlight. Or that halving the text size might be a bit annoying…

  4. ted frater

    Could I be his eyes?

    Ive read this article and the comments, and wondered why no one has mentioned the following.

    Why couldnt another person with a pc screen help say someone with a google glass or simpler a simple head digital camera linked via bluetooth to his mp that then sends the pictures to my pc?

    Id then talk him say from his home to the bus stop then to his place of work. Id be happy to do this say on a daily basis as I would get to know him /her his route for say to half hour it took. Also Id do it for free here in the UK.

    Seems a simpler way than buying a google glass and paying someone in the p to do it..

    any comments?

    So if all those needing help had a regular helper it would be a step forward for the blind.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Could I be his eyes?

      I think the idea is to achieve as much independence as possible. This is why blind kids are mostly put into main-stream schools now. The special schools are reserved for the much less able kids. In essence the idea is that anyone who's going to have any sort of independence goes the main-stream route, so they can learn to do their bouncing off of other people and coping early. They'll then get separate mobility and life-skills training. There are still options like Worcester College for the Blind, which is a residential secondary school. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, but it's too easy to institutionalise kids, and leave them effectively in a ghetto with few sighted friends.

      For things like walks to the shops and work, there is local mobility training. People learn the number of bins, bus-stops, types of kerb, pavement surfaces, sounds, roadside railings, etc.. With a bit of practise this builds up into a map of the local area, so blind people can be independent.

      I also came across a really nifty reverse sat-nav a few years ago. They built a fully talking touchscreen sat-nav. But it was too hard for many people to use. My Mum can barely use hers, and that's pretty simply, and she can see it. When you've got to find and remember your place in about 15 levels of sub-menu - with only audio cues, it's a right old bugger. So they built one that you program from your PC. It only holds about 5 destinations. And it can tell you where to go, but mostly it tells you where you actually are. Say, "you're on the corner of Oxford Street and Bond Street facing North". So you can sit on the bus and have it call out what roads you're going down, so you don't miss your stop. Or progam in an appointment beforehand. It'd be even better if they could link up to Google Maps public transport (or Nokia's HERE equivalent).

      That sort of technology linking is the dream of indepence. Stuff people can control themselves. So blind kids now get laptops and scanners. Plus Braille laptops, that have 6 key input and a pin display instead of a screen. This means you can scan class work (once they're older they have to do this themselves), and then either get it read back as text, or get the Braille Note out and take it as Brailled text. This makes it a lot easier for blind people to get jobs, without needing a secretary to handle correspondence as well.

      As speech recognition and OCR improves, this kind of stuff will only become more useful. Along with mobile phone apps, and more-and-more data being published. So barcode / RFID scanners to help with shopping, public transport info, better online maps etc.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like