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Israel’s OrCam nabs CES 2021 ‘Best of Innovation’ award

Written by NoCamels Published on 

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OrCam is headed by the founders of Mobileye, the vision tech provider for autonomous driving snapped up by Intel for USD 15 billion.

OrCam, the Jerusalem-based company known for its game-changing AI vision and hearing devices that assist the visually and hearing impaired, has been named a “Best of Innovation” honoree in the accessibility category by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) for its OrCam Read digital reader.

The company, headed by the founders of Mobileye, nabbed the award ahead of the first all-digital CES 2021 event, the annual trade show organized by the CTA where the biggest brands and global innovators in the consumer electronics industry gather to showcase breakthrough technologies. CES 2021 takes place next month.

The CES Innovation Awards program honors outstanding design and engineering in consumer technology products across 28 product categories.

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The OrCam Read is assistive reading tech that supports reading challenges. Courtesy of OrCam via NoCamels.

The OrCam Read, one of 19 products selected as a “Best of Innovation” honoree, is a “new class” of assistive technology to support people with reading challenges, such as dyslexia, mild to moderate vision loss, reading fatigue, as well as for those who read large volumes of text, according to OrCam.

This handheld device reads full pages or screens of text aloud from any printed or digital surface, including newspapers, books, product labels, as well as computers and smartphone. It does this entirely offline, without requiring an internet connection, resulting in instant audio communication while ensuring data privacy.

OrCam Read’s proprietary AI algorithms enable intuitive point-and-click operation, activating two precision laser guidance options to read the entire highlighted text or target the starting point for reading.

OrCam Read’s patented text-to-speech reading engine incorporates the new interactive “Smart Reading” feature, combining OrCam’s advanced computer vision and natural language understanding (NLU) technologies to operate as a “voice-activated assistant” that makes text more accessible to the reader.

Activated by the user’s voice, the algorithms driving the Smart Reading feature listen to the user’s requests, retrieve the relevant information, and read the requested text to the user within a few seconds.

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OrCam’s Smart Reading AI feature allows the visually impaired and blind to tailor their reading with voice commands. Courtesy of OrCam via NoCamels.

OrCam announced the US release of the voice-activated, interactive Smart Reading feature this past summer.

The OrCam Read, was first introduced to the public at CES 2020, alongside the OrCam Hear, a smart device for the hearing impaired unveiled by the company at the event. The soon-to-be-launched OrCam Hear won the company’s first “Best of Innovation” award for accessibility at the CES 2020 Innovation Awards that year.

“As we develop our portfolio of personal AI solutions, OrCam Read—including our new, interactive Smart Reading feature—represents the continuation of our mission to enable greater independence in daily life for those with a variety of access challenges caused by language processing disorders, visual impairment, and hearing loss,” said Amnon Shashua, co-founder and co-CEO of OrCam in a statement. “We believe in ‘AI as a companion’ that empowers our users to more effectively access the world around them and improve their quality of life.”

Smart Devices From OrCam

OrCam Technologies was founded in 2010 by Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram, the same pair that founded Mobileye, the vision tech provider for advanced assistance systems and autonomous driving snapped up by Intel in 2017 for USD 15 billion. The company harnesses the power of artificial vision by using pioneering technology in wearable apparel and is currently headquartered in Jerusalem, with offices in New York, Toronto, and London. OrCam is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

The company is perhaps best known for its MyEye 2.0, a wearable device that communicates visual information through a small, intuitive smart camera mounted on the user’s eyeglasses. MyEye reads out text printed on any surface through a tiny speaker positioned in the user’s ear and can also recognize and identify products and currency.

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OrCam’s MyEye can read out texts to users, recognize faces, and identify products. Courtesy of OrCam via NoCamels.

In 2019, Time magazine chose the OrCam MyEye 2 as one of its 100 best inventions of that year. OrCam was selected for helping the blind and visually impaired increase their independence and improve their quality of life.

The game-changing device won the prestigious Last Gadget Standing competition top prize at CES 2018.

The Smart Reading feature that is included with the OrCam Read product integrates into the wearable OrCam MyEye device as well as the handheld OrCam Read gadget.

In September, OrCam signed soccer superstar Lionel Messi as a global ambassador for three years. The company said it launched the collaboration with the soccer legend to “increase awareness of the challenges faced by the blind and visually impaired community globally.”

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Israeli athlete Oren Blitzblau with professional soccer player and OrCam global ambassador Leo Messi. Courtesy of OrCam via NoCamels.

As a major component of the collaboration, the company plans to continue organizing face-to-face meetings between Messi and visually impaired people pre-selected by the company. These participants will get the chance to see first-hand how the OrCam MyEye device works when they meet the soccer star.

In late October, the ten-year strong firm also announced that they are partnering with US hearing technologies firm Starkey to pair Starkey’s Livio Edge AI hearing aids to wearable OrCam MyEye devices via a wireless connection, which provides both hearing enhancement and audio communication of the visual world to the user at the same time. When paired to a Livio Edge AI hearing aid, the audio from OrCam MyEye is streamed wirelessly to the hearing aid.

“OrCam has invested over a decade of R&D efforts in pioneering the most advanced and versatile text-to-speech engine for an assistive technology platform,” said Shashua, “This breakthrough innovation leverages our AI computer vision and machine learning technology, which initially debuted in the globally award-winning, wearable OrCam MyEye device for people who are blind or visually impaired.”

This article first appeared in NoCamels, which covers innovations from Israel for a global audience.

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