Virtual Assistant aids visually impaired

To help visually impaired users to adapt the presentation of the outside world optimally to the working parts of their visual system, the Visual Assistant has been designed. This allows them to understand and interpret what is in front of them, whether this is a TV, smartphone, tablet, or when navigating in buildings or outdoor environments.

By magnifying subtle visual information around the contours of objects, the program is able to uncover unseen clues about shapes and expose hidden edges – enriching the image and making it easier to be understood by the visually impaired user.

The Visual Assistant enables a visually impaired user to take control over how images are created and presented by manipulating the perceptual components of visual information. Better understanding of the fundamental perception components ultimately leads to a visually impaired user being able to decipher the shapes of objects.

The program’s method analyses and dissects images into perception layers and enhances shape related clues in each of them separately. Finally, it blends them together to recreate a primal impression of the scene to influence both the presentation and perception of visual information. Modified visual information on a smartphone, tablet or TV becomes more accessible for the visually impaired, and it is achieved without any changes to the underlying presentation device or installed programs. This latter feature makes the mobile visual assistant an ideal add on for any smart or presentation device currently on the market.


Now, the Visual Assistant has been shortlisted for the first ever Active and Assisted Living (AAL) Challenge Prize, which is awarding €50,000 for the best product or idea that uses internet connectivity and the IoT to empower older adults to achieve the quality of life to which they aspire, socially and independently.

15 entrants from a healthy total of 200 have now been shortlisted for the prize and these finalists will now attend a special Innovation Academy in Brussels in July, where their ideas will be further scrutinised by the judges and where they will also receive advice on how their ideas can be further commercialized for what is a massively growing market.

Karin Weiss, Deputy Managing Director and Head of Grants at the AGE Foundation and one of the competition judges, said: “We were delighted by the variety of entries we received. We saw many interesting solutions and were particularly impressed by the approach taken to bridging the gap between the older and younger generations, as well as the approach to stabilizing the quality of life at home for older people.

“The challenge now is to identify a winner that is exciting, commercially viable and close to the edge of the market,” she adds. “We want to see the prize being used to connect this potential with investors, refining the prototypes and creating impetus to get the solution to market.”

A huge amount of work is being done in the UK in the sector and, with people like the designers behind Visual Assistant already engaged in developing solutions designed to increase the quality of life for older people, hopes are high that this simple, smart solution will pick up the top prize when it is announced at the AAL Forum, being held at St Gallen, Switzerland, in September.

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