Hands-on review: Orcam – My Eye

Review by Fraser Fleming 
Rating: 7/10

There are two versions of the Orcam Р My Eye and My Reader. This review is for My Eye.

Orcam My Eye is a visual aid for blind and partially sighted people that attaches a camera unit to the side of a pair of glasses (included in the box or clip on to your own) and is connected to a control box by a wire that clips onto your belt or trousers.

My Eye equipment on a table. There is a pair of glasses, a battery/hard drive and the Orcam camera.

In a Nutshell
The device takes a photo and reads the text back. Simple enough, however it also incorporates facial and product recognition – there are limitations on this useful feature as it can only store a maximum of 100 products and faces. (to store more, you must delete previously saved content)

It relates information to you through a conducting headphone that is attached to the camera unit on your glasses.

A man wearing the Orcam device is pointing to a page of text with his finger.

You simply point to the text that you want to scan and drop your finger straight down, in a few seconds the text will start being read back to you – a very easy process for text recognition.

The Orcam provides feedback if the lighting or focus of the text is not quite right. It will also tell you if there is more text in a set direction around you. You can also press the ‘trigger’ button on the control box and it will scan all text that it can capture and read it back – This is particularly handy as it is not always possible to know where the text starts or ends.

The Orcam is also able to recognise people and products (once it has been programmed to do so). It will speak the name of the person when they are close to you. For products such as cans of food, items in a supermarket or even toothpaste it will automatically speak the name.

However, to achieve this you have to spend a bit of time programming the device.

To program people and products you must hold the ‘trigger’ button for a few seconds until it captures an image of the person or product then ask you to name it/them. This can be a bit of a hit or miss for the first couple of attempts, but with a bit of practice good results will come.

My thoughts on Orcam My Eye 
It is a very handy device, although at £2,200 (payment plan available involving £1,000 upfront and the rest paid off in 6 monthly instalments) it is an expensive piece of kit.

With a bit of practice and patience it is great for capturing and reading text back. The speed that it takes to capture text and then read it back is impressive and generally only takes a few seconds.

Getting used to the point and capture gesture is natural and easy to do.

The facial and product recognition, while a bit of an effort to start with, works well. I made the mistake of trying it out on my face with a mirror, so every time I walked past a mirror in the house or out at the shops it spoke my name, but this proved to me that it is quite reliable.

It was able to recognise different cans in my cupboard and told me the difference between spaghetti or a can of dog food.

For the main function of this device which is capturing text. I found it useful and natural to use and the more experience I had with the device the easier and better the results were.

To test the device out in the real world I took it with me to Scotland Street School Museum in Glasgow for a family day out.

I found that finding the text and capturing the text went well. I enjoyed capturing the text then being able to walk away and have the text still reading in my ear. I found that on some displays where it was darker or there was a lot of glare then it struggled a lot. However, in this situation I used a simple OCR app for my iPhone and managed to get this info.

I found the device a bit uncomfortable to wear as it attaches to a set of glasses and they restricted what I could see. I think it would be great if it was able to attach to a headband (like you get with Bluetooth earphones) so that the camera and headphones are held in place more comfortably without restricting any vision you may have.

Using the Orcam about the house to capture letters was reliable and very simple. I read the first few chapters of a book and was very surprised at how accurate it picked up the pages, however I found that having to scan a page at a time a little repetitive. All in all it was enjoyable to read a book with this device.

Pros and Cons for the Orcam 
Pros
It is a sturdy device that should be able to stand up to everyday use. It is light and easy to carry. It captures text effortlessly in good lighting. Having the ability to recognise pre-programmed faces or products is a great bonus.

Cons

  • It struggles to capture text in environments that are slightly dark or have some glare.
  • If, much like myself, you don’t wear glasses, then these can be irritating to wear and interfered with my vision. Having different options other than glasses would be something Orcam ought to consider.
  • It could do with a longer battery life as when I left the museum I was below 20% for an afternoon’s continuous use. The price tag of ¬£2,200 is out of the price range of many blind and partially sighted people. I believe that this high price point will put many off of purchasing the device. However, there is a cheaper version called the MyReader priced at ¬£1,600 which only captures text.

Orcam My Eye Summary

The Orcam is a good device to use and with a little practice you can achieve good results. It has a few downsides, but what device doesn’t and hopefully these will be addressed in the future.
If I could, I would choose to use one of these devices as it makes dealing with text significantly easier.

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