My thoughts on how with some software, cameras could be much more useful for blind people

There are articles all over the Internet about how you can use security cameras, and which are the best ones to buy. I have also heard how people use cameras to keep track of their pets while away from home. I even have a friend who uses a web cam to make sure his 3d printing job at home hasn’t failed while he’s at work.

This is all cool, and I’m sure helps resolve many situations for people, but all of these examples require that the person can see. I would call it a passive use of cameras; that is, the image processing is left for the human. If I had sight I’d probably use some of those too; but I’m not.

In 2013 at the Snow*Mobiling conference in Madison Wisconsin, I heard Wes Bos speak about an ingenious project I never would have thought of. He put a web cam out by his mailbox and wrote a web app that would alert him if the image changed. He could then see if the mail person was there or the position of the mailbox flag.

I hadn’t thought of that for 5 years until earlier this week when Someone on my facebook page remarked how they hated wasting food, and their post reminded me about how sadly a few times a year I leave food out on the counter overnight that should be in the fridge or freezer making it no-longer safe to eat. (Puts face in hands and sighs.) Thus, as Allison Sheridan often likes to say, “a problem to be solved”.

Something I’ve been imagining since, is a way to have cameras plus hopefully somewhat smart software do things for blind people, a more active use of cameras; it would probably also require a bit of machine learning.

Maybe a blind person could have a wide-angle camera constantly looking at their counter top with a program that would recognize a person, something that looks like a package or box, and some more common foods. If the app thought that the person hadn’t been recognized for say 2 hours, and it saw something that looked like a box, package or common food item, like left out pizza; it could send an alert to the person. “Food has been possibly left out on counter for 2 hours.”

Another problem to solve would be that most blind people try to save energy and leave most if not all lights off as much as possible, maybe the camera could have a small LED flash ; just thinking as I write.

This doesn’t exist beyond thoughts and ideas right now, but probably could and not be too expensive. It might be possible with a camera, LED, and a raspberry pi; plus the time to write a program.

I have also thought instead of using a pi to use an old smartphone. Smartphones are compact and have all you need in one device, and like a pi would also be easy to power.
Or, after further thought, maybe only a camera with wifi would need to be in the kitchen, and a small personal server, maybe even just a computer somewhere else in the home could do the processing; more thoughts.
Let’s make it happen.

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