Six innovations for the hearing or visually impaired

Advances in personal technology are rapidly changing how we communicate and go about in our daily lives. And thanks to innovative researchers and product developers, the technologies and concepts behind smartphones and wearables are quickly being adapted to provide people with impaired hearing and vision with new opportunities in their everyday-lives.

Text-to-speech apps, for example, has made e-mailing and text-messaging accessible for people with limited or no vision, whereas video-calling has made it possible to communicate in sign-language across any distance.

But that’s only the beginning. Here are six exciting new concepts and products with an innovative take on using the new technologies to overcome some daily obstacles for people lacking the ability to see or hear.

1. Blitab – a Braille e-reader

Using a new liquid-based technology to output braille, graphics and maps, the Blitab is the world’s first Braille e-reader. Taking data from an SD-cart or a web page, the Blitab instantly transforms it into Braille or other representations accessible to blind people, empowering them to browse the web, download books and access information just like sighted people. Visit to learn more about the technology behind.

2. MotionSavvy, the sign-language translator

MotionSavvy is a two-way communication software for the deaf. Utilizing a special camera to track hand and finger movements, it translates sign-language into speech, allowing deaf people to communicate directly to people who don’t understand sign-language. And by translating spoken replies into text, MotionSavvy enables a seamless conversation. Click the image to see the concept in action, or visit

3. Haptic footwear for the sight impaired

Lechal – meaning “take me along” in Hindi – was borne out of an idea to use technology to help the visually impaired navigate their worlds better. The concept pairs haptic footwear with a navigation-app on a smartphone, cueing the user towards the destination with vibrations. More on

4. A guiding-drone for the running track

Another concept aiming at guiding the visually impaired around, is a project lead by professor Eelke Folmer, University of Nevada, aiming to guide blind runners around a running track: A quadcopter equipped with two cameras – one following a mark on the runner’s clothes, the other is following the lines on the track –flies in front of the runner, guiding the him by sound and adjusting its speed accordingly.

5. Adding a new sense with the VEST

With the VEST – Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer – neuroscientist David Eagleman and his team at Rice University created a wearable device that basically adds a new sense. A smartphone picks up speech or other sounds and translate it into vibrations across the back and chest of the person wearing the vest, letting him “feel”, rather than hear, what is being said. The vibration patterns are not a code or language, but a representation of the actual sound. Click the image to watch a video introduction of the VEST.

6. A smart bracelet to increase independence and mobility

The Sunu Band is another device developed to help people with impaired vision move around more effortlessly. Equipped with proximity sensors to detect obstacles on the street or in new, unfamiliar settings, the bracelet “looks ahead” and provides haptic feedback to the wearer to prevent collisions. Other features include a “beacon technology”, allowing the user to tag personal belongings and find them with the Sunu Band.



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