Q&A: Lighthouse Guild Opens Technology Center

April 18, 2022

Originally posted in Ocular Surgery News

By Alex Young

By Calvin W. Roberts, MD

The Lighthouse Guild has opened its Technology Center in New York City, offering access to the latest assistive devices and technology for people with visual impairments.

Healio/OSN spoke with Lighthouse Guild president and CEO Calvin W.Roberts, MD, about the Technology Center and what people can expect from the new venture.

Healio/OSN: What is the mission of the Technology Center?

Roberts: Lighthouse Guild’s Technology Center is one of the most comprehensive premier assistive technology centers in the United States. The state-of-the-art hub is designed to foster the community of technology developers, engineers, entrepreneurs, academics and physicians with people with vision impairment. It is a one-stop resource for vision care, rehabilitation and technology training and a facility where developers can test future innovations.

Healio/OSN: What is the experience like?

Roberts: The Technology Center offers individualized assessments by Lighthouse Guild experts to determine visual capacity, lifestyle, personal goals and comfort with technology. Lighthouse Guild Tech Center staff then work with each person to find the best devices or appliances to fit their needs. Training to ensure optimal use and safety is provided. There are opportunities to try out and learn how to use technology solutions, such as wearable devices that convert text to speech, recognize faces and identify currency, as well as devices that use virtual reality technology to maximize useful vision, magnifiers, closed circuit televisions, computers and smart eyeglasses. Some devices are also available for purchase.

Healio/OSN: Are there any particular features or technologies at the center that you are excited about?

Roberts: I am excited about our high-tech Smart Home. It features a kitchen, office and living area where people with vision loss can try the latest technology to help them control their home environment, including voice-activated appliances such as microwaves, ovens and refrigerators, as well as devices that can read labels, answer phones, adjust thermostats and lock doors.

On the technology side, there is a lot to be excited about, and these are just a few of the devices that I think have a lot of potential to help people.

OrCam MyEye Pro is a small wireless camera that clips onto the arm of any pair of eyeglasses. The device allows people with blindness to “read” their mail, recognize friends and even decipher money.

IrisVision employs the platform of virtual reality to help people with low vision see better. The developers worked with VR technology, taking a Samsung smartphone and mounting it on a VR headset. However, users are looking at the real world instead of looking at a virtual world. The smartphone’s camera captures what is in front of them and then remaps the scene to enhance its visibility.

We also have a portable video magnifier called the Onyx Deskset HD (Freedom Scientific) that adapts to multiple environments and tasks for productivity at school, work and home.

Healio/OSN: What are the goals for the future of the Technology Center?

Roberts: We want to further expand the center’s offerings to help people with vision impairment meet their goals. To help do that, we recently added Bryan Wolynski, OD, to the team. He is going to help us meet those goals by leading our assistive technology initiatives.

The future focus will be to broaden the scope for research and development by enabling designers and scientists to bring their new products that need beta testing and have them reviewed by our large community of people with vision impairment. Lighthouse Guild Technology Center experts will review the latest assistive technologies and provide consumer reports on them via our website.

We want to be a resource for low vision providers throughout the United States and abroad. To that end, we look forward to hosting technology conferences to share knowledge with others in the adaptive tech community.

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Lighthouse Guild is dedicated to providing exceptional services that inspire people who are visually impaired to attain their goals.