For the millions of Americans who are blind or visually impaired, everyday interactions can be challenging and require dependence on others.
For instance, imagine shopping at a grocery store if you couldn't see. How would you know what cereal you're buying? Or the denomination of the bill you're using to pay for it?
Now imagine a smartphone app that tells you all that information and more, in real time, when you need it.
Like an electronic best friend to guide you
The new VelaSense® mobile application turns a smartphone into a talking companion, an electronic BFF that can understand surroundings, process text, deliver voice commands through a headset and more. It can even provide outside navigation.
Visus Technology launched the app on Feb. 26, 2015. It will use Verizon’s 4G LTE network and smartphones with advanced cameras and sensors to deliver real-time information to visually-impaired Verizon customers. The app helps people understand printed words, enjoy articles, determine colors, interpret barcodes and more.
Users can more easily juggle daily applications like the phone and contacts manager, music player, weather reports, alarm clock and dozens more.
By combining multiple tools, the apps eliminate the inconvenience and cost of stand-alone equipment like magnifiers or readers.
Bringing independence and confidence
With Verizon and Visus, that shopping trip to the mall might go something like this: A blind or visually impaired person could use her phone and the app to determine if the sweater she’s holding is, in fact, the color she wants; and that she’s about to use a 50-dollar bill to pay for it.
Estimates vary about how many Americans are afflicted with sight problems-and the apps can help more people than just those with the most severe difficulties. The US Census in 2010 reported about 8 million Americans over the age of 15 were blind or had trouble seeing, even with glasses or contact lenses. The American Foundation for the Blind frequently cites the National Health Interview Survey's estimate that 21 million adult Americans are blind or have trouble seeing.
Verizon is offering this service exclusively. Customers are eligible for a free 30-day trial before deciding to pay the $14.99 monthly subscription fee. Android OS 4.3 is required. For more information, visit VelaSense.com.
Jay Croft is a freelance journalist based in Atlanta.