Intel Capital is investing $15 million in an Israeli startup called OrCam, which makes a system for helping blind people understand the world around them, according to Haaretz. The company makes a system that comprises a small wearable camera, to be clipped onto glasses, that interprets what it sees and feeds back to the wearer via bone-conduction audio.
The $2,500 device reads gestures to help it know what to interpret, and it can recognize and learn to remember a variety of objects, places and people. As the video below shows, if it sees the user point to some text, it will read it; if the user touches a product, it will try to identify it.
OrCam can tell when a traffic light is red or green, identify specific buses…as a visually impaired pal of mine said when I mentioned it to him, it’s “like a hearing aid for eyes.” It’s also clearly in the same ballpark as collision avoidance tech firm Mobileye, whose founders Ziv Aviram and Amnon Shashua also founded OrCam, and which is reportedly preparing for a Nasdaq IPO.
Of course, this news comes right after Facebook announced its purchase of virtual reality headset developer Oculus Rift, and as Google Glass prepares an attempt to enter the mainstream. Intel also has its own, quite advanced efforts to develop emotion-tracking, gesture-reading cameras as part of its perceptual computing drive.
But Intel also has a sizeable healthcare and life sciences division, and just a couple of weeks ago it bought Basis, the maker of a health tracking band. The OrCam investment, which reportedly values the company at $100 million may well help feed back into other efforts around computer vision and augmented reality; it will certainly fit in with Intel’s healthcare work.
I’ve asked both Intel and OrCam for comment, and will update this piece as and when it comes in.
This article was updated at 9.50am PT to include a more specific price, as per an update to the Haaretz piece.