A new mobile app, ViaOpta Hello, powered by Microsoft Cognitive Services and the Windows 10 Universal App Platform, was launched at the recent OSSA 48th annual congress in Johannesburg to empower the many thousands of South Africans living with blindness and severe visual impairment.

Developed in collaboration with patient organisations including Retina International, the app uses facial recognition software to recognise an individual from a list of people who have agreed to be identified by the app.

ViaOpta Hello identifies objects and people via a phone’s camera: by taking a picture once they enter a room, the user will then be told by the app what surrounds them, giving them critical information that sighted individuals would take for granted.

A desktop version has also be made to available to enable to identify faces on photographs that they are sent, something that is currently inaccessible to many. This functionality is expected to be particularly useful in the workplace, where the blind and visually impaired may feel isolated from discussions and inter-personal engagement.

More than 730,000 people are registered as having ‘severe difficulty’ in seeing in South Africa1 in which sight impairment ranks the highest of all disabilities (32%). For every one blind person there are three to four people with low vision2 while it is estimated that there are approximately 252.6 million people affected by blindness and moderate-to-severe visual impairment globally3.

The app can be accessed as a free download from iOS and Android mobile platforms and a desktop version on Windows 10 devices for those without smartphones. 

SOURCE: Bespoke Strategic Communications

REFERENCES

1. StatsSA Census 2011:Profile of persons with disabilities in South Africa, p38

2. SA National Council for the Blind, accessed 25/01/18 http://www.sancb.org.za/article/councils-vision

3. Bourne R, et al. Magnitude, temporal trends, and projections of the global prevalence of blindness and distance and near vision impairment: a systematic review and meta analysis; The Lancet Global Health, August 2017.