I like a good challenge and especially one that challenges the mind and makes me think through problems. Let’s face it; life is a series of problem solving exercises. However, I like the simple things in life as well and I especially welcome things that will make things easier to work and deal with.
In terms of technology, this can, if you take it to its extremes, be a fairly complex area. However, at the same time, it can be extremely liberating and uncomplicated as new products are brought forward to make life easier and more accessible.
OCR or optical Character recognition is one area which has really opened up access to us in terms of trying to read documents, tins, packets and boxes. , up to recent times, if you had no or very limited vision, trying to recognise what a tin was that you’d bought at the supermarket was quite a tricky procedure. Yes, certain tins may have a specific shape or feature that easily recognised it from others, but in other cases, it could be easy to mix things up and therefore interesting cocktails and concoctions could be created; believe me I’ve done them.
With the advent of the smart phone and of specific smart phone aps, recognising tins and other items has become much easier. One True, accessing a smart phone in the first place is a bit of a learning curve, but with the use of built in speech, such as Voiceover on the IPhone, access is made a little easier.
There are two specific applications that have, for me, revolutionised this area. The first is something called tap tap see; a facility that enables you to take a picture of something and then via its servers, it will come back with an interpretation of what you have photographed. If lined up correctly and the picture is not taken too near or far, it will usually give a very accurate answer of what you need to know. For instance, it’s a tin of beans, soup or a box of washing powder (yes it will say the brand).
Its advantages are that it gives access to print and products more readily than before. Its disadvantages are that you do need to know how to generally navigate around a smartphone and also you need to line the camera up generally with the product. Once you know how to do these though, you can start to access things more clearly and independently.
The second product is be my eyes. I haven’t used this as yet, but I know the principle of what it is trying to achieve and its results can be fairly spectacular. Essentially, your phone is used as a means of someone interpreting what you are trying to recognise via the camera. You register to use the product, either as a user or as a sighted guide. When, for instance, you need to recognise something, you go into the programme, ask for help and you will be put in touch with someone, who will help you via the use of the camera on your phone. A good use of this would be if you are in a particular location and you wanted to recognise the shops and businesses around you. As long as you had an internet connection, you could make contact with someone via be my eyes and then you’d work together to find out the information that you needed to know.
Technology can and continues to make strides into breaking down barriers for accessibility. True, it will still hold fears for many, but by recognising that products such as those mentioned above are making a difference, hopefully these fears will decrease and more will embrace the possibilities that Technology can bring to everyday life.