OrCam is expanding its product lineup with new devices that tackle new use cases.
At CES, The company has announced the OrCam Hear. The device can be useful in loud rooms.
It makes hearing aids smart, by identifying and isolating a speaker’s voice — from among multiple speakers — and then relaying the clear speech to users’ Bluetooth hearing aids, thus countering the so-called cocktail party effect.
The cocktail party effect, a problem being addressed by researchers, refers to the difficulty in focusing on a single conversation in a noisy environment. Conventional hearing aids are not able to separate the speech users want to hear from the background chatter.
The new wearable AI-based device is an add-on that integrates with existing hearing aids, OrCam said, with the aim of improving their performance.
The device is worn on clothing and comes with a tiny camera that is wirelessly connected to the hearing aid or earphones. The device discerns who is speaking to the user and reads that person’s lips, simultaneously separating the speaker’s voice from other sources of noise and other speakers. It switches between speakers when focus shifts to another.
The device is “discreet, easy to wear, and lightweight,” the company said. It operates offline, without a WiFi connection, ensuring data privacy. Power consumption is low.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) on January 5 named OrCam Hear as a “Best of Innovation” for accessibility at the CES 2020 Innovation Awards, as part of the exhibition.
“We are truly honored that the CTA has distinguished OrCam Hear as one of the Best Innovations of CES 2020, in the accessibility category,” said Prof. Amnon Shashua, OrCam Technologies co-founder and co-CEO, in a statement. “With OrCam Hear, we pioneered the innovation as a versatile, effective solution for people who use hearing aids to seamlessly — and exclusively — hear the voice of their choosing in any type of environment, clearly and in real time.”
OrCam is also introducing the OrCam Read, a handheld AI reader. This time, you don’t clip a camera to your glasses, you take the device in your hand and point it at text. The company says it could be particularly useful for people who have reading difficulties due to dyslexia.
OrCam’s best-known device is the OrCam MyEye 2 — a tiny device for people with visual impairment that you clip on your glasses to help you navigate the world around you.
OrCam announced that the MyEye 2 is getting new features. In addition to being able to point at text and signs to read text aloud, recognize faces and identify objects and money notes, you’ll be able to let the device guide you.
For instance, you can say “what’s in front of me?” and the device could tell you that there’s a door. You can then ask to be guided to that door. The MyEye 2 is also getting better at natural language processing for interactive reading sessions.
Earlier this year the MyEye 2 was named among TIME magazine’s Best Inventions for 2019.