“Seeing” the world through a digital voice, Army Veteran Tom Arcand glimpses the world through a unique device – even though he’s legally blind. Arcand has a device that details the world around him, feeding him input, like identifying people around him and reading to him what he’s “looking at.”
The life-changing device came after a simple question to his doctor.
It all started when a friend recommended a device to him. Tom, and his wife Lucy – also a Veteran – watched a few short video clips and were ready to purchase the device. The Arcands reached out to the West Texas VA Health Care System, asking their ophthalmologist, Dr. Geert Craenen, if the device was worth getting.
Prepared to buy it themselves, the Arcands were surprised by Craenen’s response. “It’s one of the advantages of the VA health care system. We have great flexibility in procuring devices such as this for our Veterans.”
In the photo above, Arcand receives an eye exam from Cathy Green, health technician.
Attaches to reading glasses
Around the size of a large thumb drive, the Orcam MyEye attaches to a pair of reading glasses and scans anything Tom Arcand signals or points to. A small speaker near his ear will then tell him what it scans.
“It will read anything to you, books or signs, it’ll read it all,” said Arcand. “I mostly use it to read at home or go through bills, but there are a number of things you can use it for.”
The artificial vision device has given Arcand a connection to the world that he didn’t have after losing his vision completely in one eye and most of his vision in his other eye. Mobility was a significant barrier.
Arcand has extremely limited vision in one eye and in good lighting conditions can make out basic shapes. When walking down a hallway in the medical center, Arcand can find a room by simply pointing at the sign shapes on the wall. The device will read to Arcand what is on the sign, giving him greater independence, both in his life at home and when he goes out into the world.
As the Arcands first started using the device, it was challenging, like with any new technology. Over time, they have become more comfortable using it, learning new functions every day.
‘It even tells you the time’
“This device has so many features,” said Lucy. Tom holds up his arm like he’s looking at a wristwatch that isn’t there. He smiles and says, “It even tells you the time.”
“This thing has been a lot of help. For years, I’ve been getting all my medical care from the VA, like walkers and an insulin pump. This is just another example of how they’ve helped me.”
The Orcam Myeye also features a facial recognition function that tells the person wearing it who comes into their presence. By programing people, the device will tell the wearer when a person comes into the room.
William Hatton is an Army Veteran and a public affairs specialist for the West Texas VA Health Care System in Big Spring, Texas.