Working for People with Sight Loss

NCBI Labs Q&A with Karthik Kannan, Co-Founder of Envision

Man wearing Envision glasses to read text on sheet of paper

Karthik Kannan, Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Envision, speaks to NCBI Labs about the Envision AI Smart Glasses. Lightweight and designed to be worn all day, these innovative glasses use AI to describe surroundings to blind and visually impaired people in real time.

Q1. Can you start by telling us about Envision, what they do and what products and services they provide?

Envision builds tools for people with a visual impairment to live more independently using AI.

Primarily, we build smart glasses (The Envision Glasses) that help people read text, in over 60 languages including handwritten text, recognize faces, objects and even make video calls from them. We also have a free, companion app called Envision AI, available on both iOS & Android.

Envision Glasses provide a very simple, unobtrusive way of accessing visual information in your surroundings. You don’t need to hold a smartphone in your hand and point it around. With the Glasses, you can look around, in a handsfree manner and it speaks out the visual information (such as text, objects, faces, etc.) in front of you.

Q2. Can you describe for us the Envision Glasses and how they work?

Envision Glasses look like any other pair of glasses. It contains a wide-angle camera, touchpad, an onboard speaker, microphones and powerful processors. The Glasses have a screen reader which is very similar to VoiceOver or Talkback. Apart from touch gestures, the Glasses can also be operated purely with voice commands.

The Glasses come with 5-8 hours of battery life and also support USB-C fast charging. The Glasses can be also put in standby mode which gives it 12-16 hours of battery life. You can also connect the Glasses to any Bluetooth headphones or speakers (like the AirPods).

The Glasses are lightweight (weighs just 50 grams in total) and can be worn like a regular pair of glasses, all day. They can easily connect to your WiFi network indoors or also connect to the hotspot on your phone.

Q3. Who are these glasses designed for?

The Glasses are designed for people across the visual impairment spectrum. There are people who’ve been fully blind since birth using the Glasses as well folks with low vision.

Yes, there’s a bit more of a learning curve for people with 100% visual impairment but there are features within the Glasses (such as Document Guidance) in order to help them use the Glasses effectively.

The Glasses are also designed for all age groups (and all levels of tech savviness).

With the launch of the voice commands, Envision Glasses can also be used with people who’ve some amount of motor impairment.

Q4. Is there much set-up involved?

The Glasses can be used entirely as a standalone device. It doesn’t need to be used with a smartphone. The Glasses do need to be paired with the Envision App once. Using the App you can easily customize the features of the Glasses.

Though there are some features in the Glasses that require an internet connection, many features can be used entirely offline such as reading text, recognizing objects, etc.

When you first purchase the Envision Glasses, you’ll get a free 90 minute onboarding session where a representative from the Envision team will help you set up the Glasses. Also, you can always reach out to the Envision team from within the app to request a call.

Q5. What are the key features of the glasses?

The Glasses does many things well but it does read text exceptionally well. They’re capable of reading 60 different languages (including Irish). It can read handwritten text in all these languages. The Glasses are also capable of reading text from curved surfaces like bottles, etc. You can also export the text you scan with the Glasses to your smartphone easily.

Apart from excelling at reading text, another unique feature of the Glasses is the video calling feature, called Envision Ally. The Ally feature allows you to make video calls directly from your Glasses to a friend or a family member. It’s an incredibly useful feature when you want to get help from a fellow human as opposed to using AI. Some examples of people using this feature include getting help with cooking, picking the right outfit before a date and much more.

You can also use the Envision Glasses to recognize faces of friends or family members, recognise your personal belongings, currencies or even detect the amount of light in a room.

Envision pushes out constant updates to the Glasses and these updates are available free of cost to anyone purchasing the Glasses.

Q6. Do any of these features work offline?

Almost 70% of the Glasses features work entirely offline. For example, many reading functions of the Glasses work offline(including Irish). Recognizing objects, currencies, etc. also work offline.

Certain features like scan documents or books and video calling requires an internet connection as of now. Our focus at Envision is to bring more features offline, giving people the option to switch modes as desired and our future updates will focus on these.

Q7. Any developments coming down the line for the Envision Glasses?

We have many exciting developments in the pipeline for the rest of 2022. Our biggest updates are going to be bringing some of your most loved apps onto the Envision Glasses platform. We’re currently in talks with Aira and other navigation apps to build apps for the Envision Glasses and they’ll be rolled out starting from August 2022.

So, when you buy the Envision Glasses it’ll be akin to buying an iOS or Android device which brings its own AppStore or Play Store along with it.

We also have some big improvements to the recently launched voice commands, increasing the number of objects it can recognize and many more exciting additions.

Q8. How can someone receive a demonstration or trial of the glasses?

You can get a free, 1:1 demonstration of the Envision Glasses by requesting a demo from us on our website. The link is: https://www.letsenvision.com/envision-glasses-demo-form.

We’ve recently slashed our prices by a €1000, bringing the price to €2399. This is a limited time offer from Envision. We also offer a no-questions-asked 30-day return policy for the Glasses, along with the free onboarding and free updates for the first 2 years.

Getting a demo of the Glasses is the best way to experience all it’s features and ask any questions you may have. We’d love to show you what we got and hear your feedback!