After successfully launching the pilot phase of a highly-innovative Artificial Intelligence-powered device for the visually impaired – Smart Vision Glasses, in late 2021, Vision-Aid is now embarking on the next phase. This device helps the visually impaired and blind function more independently through the ability to read, recognize common objects, navigate their way through the office and home environments, and more, with the power of machine learning and computer vision built into a simple head-mounted spectacle frame.
Vision-Aid has partnered with SHG Technologies, a start-up based in the South Indian city of Bengaluru, which is bringing this “Made in India” cutting-edge technology for the first time to Indian markets. The Founder and CEO of SHG Technologies, Ramu Muthangi says “Smart Vision would not be on the market today without the support of Vision-Aid. Vision-Aid’s support enabled us to design, develop and distribute the first two versions of Smart Vision, in 2021 and 2022. We are very grateful to Vision-Aid and its supporters and partners, for helping us take the first, very important steps in this exciting journey.”
Another key player is Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, a global leader in eye care, which has a pivotal role in the early design and development of Smart Vision Glasses. Dr P Vijayalakshmi, Founding Trustee of Aravind Eye Care, says “it has been very exciting for the team at Aravind to work with SHG Technologies and Vision-Aid to participate in the development of Smart Vision Glasses, a revolutionary technology which will bring immense value to the visually impaired patients.”
Several Vision-Aid partners are providing valuable feedback through early pilot rollouts currently underway. Locations for the initial rollout include the Aravind Eye Hospital Network, Sankara Nethralaya Chennai, Shroff Charity Eye Hospital Delhi, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, Community Eye Care Foundation, Pune, and Voluntary Health Services in Chennai. The short video below shows a brief demo of the device, testimonials from users, and locations where it is currently being rolled out.
One of the most notable features is its affordability for the underprivileged people by reducing the cost to under 1/10th (one-tenth) of the current alternatives. The affordability will substantially increase with the increase in volumes that are projected in the coming years. The SHG team is constantly updating the product based on feedback received during the pilot roll-out. Another new and updated version is expected in August 2022. Other features which make it suitable for the Indian markets are its support for all major Indian languages and comprehensive testing of the product across India through Vision-Aid’s partner networks.
The assembly of Smart Vision Gen 1.0 (in 2021) and Gen 2.0 (2022) had been made possible by a grant from the Palakurthi Foundation of the USA to Vision-Aid. Prashanth Palakurthi said “Anuradha and I visited one of Vision-Aid’s pivotal projects at the L V Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad. We were deeply impressed with the work being done there. We are very pleased to support Vision-Aid’s amazing work and excited to support their latest, innovation – the AI-powered Smart Vision Glasses which has tremendous potential to apply the power of AI to help the visually impaired.”
In 2022, several other philanthropic and forward-thinking organizations and individuals are coming forward to support Smart Vision. This includes the Sushil Tuli Family Foundation which is generously sponsoring Smart Vision Glasses for the underprivileged visually impaired, and Trees for Life Foundation, which offers a matching grant, doubling its impact, Rotary Clubs across India – notably the Rotary Club of Madras East which has distributed hundreds of devices, as well as Dr Suraj Menon & Dr Debashish Roychowdhury. The Vision-Aid is running a focused campaign to raise funds for this ground-breaking device – more details of the event can be found at www.VisionAid.org/event. Vision-Aid is encouraging donors to take advantage of the generous matching grant offer to double the impact of their donation towards this device.
Sushil Tuli, CEO of Leader Bank, one of the key supporters of visually impaired individuals, said the potential of this innovation in the coming years is going to be high. There are more than five million severely visually impaired and blind individuals in India alone. I can foresee a million or more people being able to use these life-changing glasses in the coming years.”
Lalit Sudan, President of Vision-Aid summed it up for the Vision-Aid team: “We are working collaboratively with many eminent hospitals, blind schools and social organisations, ophthalmologists, opticians, and government agencies in India. We are confident that through these partnerships we will be able to reach and help a substantial segment of the five million people over the next five years. We are sending out a message to individuals so that they can benefit from the power of this device.