SightPlus Vs Orcam

Headshot of Matt Harrison

With more and more wearable technology devices on the market, technology services manager at The Beacon Centre, Matt Harrison, has tried out a couple…

I wouldn’t be without audiobooks when it comes to the latest Ian Rankin novel, but I still want to be able to read short passages of text like cooking instructions or train tickets myself. So it’s comforting to know that several types of wearable technology now exist for people with low vision. These two – SightPlus and OrCam - work in very different ways.

SightPlus – like an electronic magnifier, but hands-free

What you get:

  • smartphone
  • specialist software
  • headset with adjustable lenses
  • wireless handset.

How it works:

The headset positions the phone’s display close to your eyes and the camera at eye-level. Using a small joystick on the handset, the wearer can “zoom” in and out, adjust the contrast or change mode to enhance printed text. You can also take a “snapshot” to keep an image on the display for as long as you need.

It’s not suitable for using on the move, but can be used to augment your vision during any static activity - be that watching TV, playing cards or sewing. I used it to help me take my old laptop to pieces.

What it costs:

SightPlus retails at £2,995, or can be rented for £295 plus a monthly fee of £39.95. For further details visit www.give-vision.net.

 

OrCam - to convert printed text to speech, and help you recognise people and products

What you get:

  • small camera and speaker, which sits on your glasses
  • handset.

How it works:

OrCam uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to capture formatted text – whether it’s on a newspaper, sign or computer screen - and read it discreetly to you via a small speaker.

The OCR software is very accurate, and can tell you if the image is blurred or if there isn’t enough light for it to read. Not only this, but it is able to recognise basic hand gestures, meaning you can simply point at the text you wish to hear and the OrCam will do the rest.

The more recent MyEye version has additional face and product recognition, so you can photograph faces and products and record a description. The next time the camera spots the same face or object, it will repeat your description.

What it costs:

OrCam retails at £2,600. For more information visit www.orcam.com.

The verdict

Personally I think there is a scenario in which I own both a SightPlus headset and an OrCam. They may well be aimed at the same market, but they work in such different ways that they’re not direct competitors. If you’re considering buying either, be sure to try before you buy and see which you prefer.

Want to find out more about how technology could help you, or someone you know? Call the Macular Society Helpline on 0300 3030 111.

A version of this article first appeared in Sideview, our member magazine. See what else our members receive and sign up for six months’ free membership.