Madrid 2,172 EUR 0 (0,09 %)
Madrid 2,172 EUR 0 (0,09 %)

INNOVATION| 06.06.2023

A pocket magnifier with artificial intelligence that transforms text into speech

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Worldwide, almost half of the world’s population will have vision difficulties during their lifetime, which will limit their ability to read and, consequently, will become an obstacle in their daily lives.

Addressing this issue could have a tremendous impact on the social, professional, and academic integration of individuals dealing with this particular challenge. It may seem like science fiction, but a magnifying glass that can capture text from a book page, product label, or exhibition poster and convert it into an audio file in various languages is now a reality. It’s not science fiction. It’s real. It’s called LUP and it is one of the winning projects of Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards.

LUP, a startup from Spain, incorporates advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, computer vision, and algorithms. However, their main goal is to provide a solution that can assist visually impaired individuals in leading independent lives.

Uxue Mancisidor, Apurva San Juan, and Eneko Calvo collaborated on an undergraduate thesis at the university. The combination of computer science studies of Eneko Calvo, and entrepreneurship studies of Uxue Mancisidor, Apurva San Juan, was ideal for developing a product or service that went beyond mere technology. This was the challenge presented in their university project. There was a strong desire to assist and conduct research that can provide solutions, making life easier for those who may be limited by visual impairments in their daily lives.

This project caters to a diverse range of individuals, including older people who may face visual challenges, children with dyslexia, and those who have experienced vision loss. Experiencing this unfortunate event is not uncommon, as it can be a result of various illnesses, including diabetes. In Spain, there are currently 1.2 million individuals who experience low vision and 4.6 million who struggle with dyslexia. However, if we include other conditions that may impede reading, such as cataracts, myopia, or presbyopia, the number increases to over 54% of the Spanish population. It’s evident that this issue is more common than we realize.

When it comes to reading small print like a bank notice, using a traditional magnifying glass can be time-consuming and inconvenient. However, if we need to read an entire page of a book, the challenge becomes even greater and may even become frustrating enough to make us want to give up.

The design might be simple, but it conceals a remarkable application

How does this magnifier work? It is much more than just a traditional magnifier. It is the first pocket magnifier with artificial intelligence, i.e. the first magnifier that can read autonomously. This magnifier is extremely user-friendly with a design that closely resembles the traditional version. However, it boasts a long-lasting battery and a convenient battery level indicator light. In addition to its magnifying feature, the standout aspect of this tool is its accompanying app, which efficiently converts written text into speech within seconds. With just a simple button press, you can effortlessly convert text into speech, while also having the option to personalize the chosen voice. This is a fantastic tool for anyone. Tasks that may be challenging due to low vision can now be easily resolved in just a matter of seconds. Grocery shopping, comparing prices at the supermarket, reading the newspaper, or reading a restaurant menu can go from being a real ordeal to becoming an effortless, everyday task. 

This is in the case of people with vision loss, but it is also intended for other uses: young people and children with dyslexia can also benefit from this initiative. With LUP, you can easily import PDF files and convert them into speech. This feature is particularly helpful for studying as you can adjust the reading speed and listen to the content as many times as needed.

Additionally, a notable aspect of this mobile application is its adaptability, allowing ophthalmologists, optometrists, and speech therapists to incorporate it into their patient treatments. The ultimate goal is to promote and preserve patients’ vision, preventing it from atrophying or deteriorating too soon. 

According to Uxue, the loss of vision is a “significant social obstacle that is often underestimated.” “We were unaware of this reality even before we began the project. It may be a common belief that there are individuals who can see versus those who cannot, but this is actually a misconception. The spectrum is much more than black and white. In Spain, there are many individuals with low vision and it is a problem that can affect anyone, it is highly misunderstood,” he acknowledges when we talked to him on the day of the awards ceremony, although he still did not know that they were going to be one of the winning projects. Although there may be some nerves present, there is an overall feeling of satisfaction upon reaching the finals. The opportunity to connect with fellow finalists, explore new projects, and meet innovative individuals working on prototypes across various fields seems to have been enriching. 

LUP has already become a reality, not just an idea on paper. Dozens of people are already testing both the magnifier prototypes and the app. In order to expand their reach, they sought out volunteer associations for input on how to enhance their project’s effectiveness. These organizations offered valuable suggestions on what was truly necessary, enabling them to compare and contrast various solutions. 

“LUP generates autonomy for people so that they never stop reading. We are providing technology so that people with visual impairment can improve their daily lives, their labor, social and academic inclusion so that their lives can be fulfilled,” says Eneko. 

The smart pocket magnifier was patented in June 2022 and within just three months, over a hundred potential customers have already indicated their interest in purchasing the product.

The winners of the Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards have just been accredited with their award, and they are in disbelief. Although Uxue acknowledges some of the other finalist projects, it is undeniable that LUP has emerged as the top project in the Senior Economy category.