Google is Developing an Android App to Help Guide Visually Impaired Users

iStock
iStock

“Lavender at 12 o’clock,” a virtual assistant calls out.

Meet Lookout, an Android app being developed by Google that can identify objects around you—from a pair of scissors to an exit sign to a lavender bush—and tell you exactly where they are located. The goal of the app, which will be made available on the Google Play store later in 2018, is to help guide people who are blind or visually impaired.

A visualization of how the Lookout app picks out objects in the background
Google

Lookout is specifically built for Pixel phones. Users can place their phone in a lanyard worn around their neck, with the camera facing out. Once the app is open, users can select a mode that best describes the environment they’re currently in, whether that's being home, at work, in a shopping mall, or in a situation where they need to have text read aloud to them ("scan mode"). The “work and play” mode, for instance, will likely alert users when they’re next to an elevator or stairwell, while the “home” mode will identify your TV, washing machine, and kitchen table.

The Lookout app interface
Google

After selecting a mode, the app begins to detect objects, text, and people using the phone’s camera. It uses machine learning to determine what information is most critical to the individual user based on their usage history, allowing it to improve over time.

It’s also designed to be mostly hands-free, allowing users to navigate their surroundings without having to constantly tap on the app. Users can cover the camera to pause detection, knock twice on their phone to resume detection, and use the fingerprint sensor to switch to a different mode. The app can also be controlled via bluetooth or work offline.

Lookout follows the 2017 release of Microsoft’s Seeing AI app for iOS, which acts as a “talking camera” by describing objects surrounding the user, according to The Next Web. As the tech news site points out, there’s one key difference, though:

“Lookout seems like it could be more useful as its various modes can help highlight only the important objects in one’s surroundings based on what they’re doing—and therefore cut out a whole lot of noise from the app.”

To see how the Lookout app works, check out this video from Google:

[h/t The Next Web]

BioLite Has Designed a Headlamp That Won't Irritate or Slip Off Your Head

BioLite
BioLite

Headlamps are convenient in theory. Instead of fumbling with a flashlight or your phone in the dark, you can strap one to your head and walk your dog, do some late-night grilling, or venture around your campsite hands-free.

But in reality, the awkward design—with a bulky light that digs into your skin and slides down your forehead—cancels out much of the product's appeal. Luckily, it doesn't have to be this way, as the folks at BioLite have demonstrated with their reinvented headlamp.

The BioLite HeadLamp 330, which debuted on Kickstarter in 2018 and is now available on Amazon, promises to make you forget you're even wearing it. Inspired by modern wearables, BioLite has retooled various elements of the clunky traditional design to make it as comfortable as it is functional.

A man wearing a red HeadLamp 330
BioLite

The ultra-thin light sits flat against your skull, which means you won't have any painful marks in the middle of your forehead when you take it off. The band itself is made from a moisture-wicking fabric that feels good on your skin, even when you're working up a sweat. And unlike conventional headlamps, BioLite has redistributed the power source to the back of the head in its design, balancing the weight and taking care of any slippage issues.

As is the case with other BioLite products, technology is an essential part of the design. The 330-lumen lamp projects light up to nearly 250 feet in front of you. There are variable lighting settings, too: You can opt for either a white spot or floodlight, both with dimming options, or a strobe light feature; there's also a red floodlight. It can run for three and a half hours at maximum brightness or 40 hours at minimum brightness, and when it needs to be recharged, you can just plug it into a micro-USB source like a solar panel or powerbank.

Get your own BioLite Headlamp for $49 on Amazon. It's available in in ember red, ocean teal, sunrise yellow, or midnight gray.

Teal headlamp.
BioLite

Bioengineering Student Is Building Custom Prosthetic Arms From LEGO Bricks

iStock.com/serts
iStock.com/serts

The custom LEGO designs built by 19-year-old David Aguilar aren't meant to sit on a shelf. For years he's been ignoring the instructions that come with LEGO sets to make functioning prosthetic arms for himself, and now he's sharing his creations online, Reuters reports.

Aguilar—who lives in Andorra, a small principality on the French-Spanish border—was born with a rare genetic condition that left him without a right forearm. He built his first artificial limb out of LEGO bricks at age 9, and hasn't looked back. Today Aguilar is pursuing an eduction in bioengineering at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya in Spain, and he's already on LEGO prosthetic No. 4.

After acquiring complex LEGO sets for things like airplanes and construction vehicles, Aguilar reconfigures them into arms and adds electric motors that allow him to move his fingers and bend his elbow. He documents his building process on YouTube under the name Hand Solo. Each arm he builds is named MK followed by the model number (MK I, MK II, etc.), a nod to the MK suits built by Tony Stark in the Iron Man series.

The LEGO prosthetics are more than conversation starters—they're also affordable compared to professionally made robotic limbs on the market. Aguilar tells Reuters his dream is to one day provide cheaper options to prosthetics-wearers like him.

[h/t Reuters]

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