Last week, Tran Viet Hoang and Dong Thi Hai Yen, two visually impaired students, received their early Christmas gifts. These are two sets of artificial vision devices, given to them by Christy Le and Sonny Vu, co-founders of Alabaster and avid supporters of Fulbright. Christy is also a member of Fulbright’s Young Advisory Board.
Ordered from OrCam, an Israel based tech company whose founder is a close friend of Sonny, these devices look like normal eyeglasses but with a small optical sensor attached to the hinge. They are products of artificial intelligence that allows visually impaired people to understand text and identify objects through audio feedback.
Christy recalled how Hoang’s speech at this year’s Convocation inspired her and made her realize that she wanted to do something to help. She applauds Hoang’s and Yen’s efforts to rise above difficult circumstances. “No matter how advanced these technologies can get, its power is not comparable to the simple yet kind actions we see students of Fulbright share with Hoang and Yen. We’re gratified to witness the support that this community have for one another, very admirable,” said Christy.
“I have heard of and tried a few sensory glasses on before, but the most they could do was to only buzz when there’s an obstacle in front of me, which was not really helpful to me because I can still partially see shapes,” Hai Yen shared. She said because of the prior experience with other assistive devices, she was not expecting much this time. However, the OrCam device amazed her with its voice activated features, which can read texts for her from any surfaces and also recognize faces.
On the other hand, Hoang never tried these kind of devices, so he was eager to play around with this new technology. “I am really happy and grateful to receive this present from chi Christy and anh Sonny. I’m so excited to learn all the features on this new glass and become more independent,” said Viet Hoang.
When asked what they look forward to use the glasses for, Hoang expressed his excitement to go home and just know who’s inside without having to ask every time. As for Yen, she cannot wait to go to a restaurant and read the menu herself. Hopefully, these devices will facilitate Hoang and Yen’s studies, while also enabling them to a fuller and more independent life.