News and views from Sight Village 2010

Image of LookTel interface on mobile phone screenOne of the most exciting innovations to come out of Sight Village 2010 was the LookTel product from Ipplex. The LookTel is a mobile object recognition and remote assistance solution for blind and partially sighted users.  A LookTel demonstration was given by Glenn Tookey from Sight and Sound Technology who will be supplying the product from September onward.

Using an HTC Touch Pro 2 Windows Mobile handset, the LookTel software/service was able to recognise items such as: tinned food, currency, CDs/DVDs, buildings/rooms and people! The technology works by having the user take many photographs of a given object with the handset’s camera at multiple angles. Then, the user tags the photo collection and stores it in the LookTel’s object library. It is also possible to take advantage of recognised objects in a global library with user-contributed object tags.

The demonstration showed that previously difficult to discern items were easily identifiable by pointing the camera in the direction of the item. In an educational setting, this technology may be useful when a student is tasked with identifying a collection of apparently similar objects (bottles containing liquids, instruments, automotive parts, etc) or items such as books, DVDs and money.  The LookTel can also take a picture of printed text (books, labels, signs) and perform optical character recognition (OCR) on the material and translate it into synthetic speech.

Another useful feature is the ability for the user to have two-way audio/video communication with a command centre – allowing a blind user to receive real-time visual feedback of what the camera is looking at. This feature may be useful when a user is lost or needs audio-description of a surrounding or situation. Further details will be available from Sight and Sound Technology when the LookTel is officially launched this autumn.

From the web site: LookTel is a mobile application for Smartphones that provides a full suite of accessibility and assistance solutions for visually impaired users. LookTel combines real-time object recognition that lets users identify specific objects such as packaged goods, CDs, and money with text-reader capabilities using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). If additional help is desired, the user can immediately connect with a friend or family member using live video or audio chat directly from their mobile phone. LookTel web site

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