Today (April 9), Israelis are going to the polls to choose the parties that will form the next government. No fewer than 15 major parties are in the running, along with 30 minor parties such as the Me and You Party and Pirates Party (no, we’re not kidding).
Israel uses a paper ballot system. Voters choose the ballot of their choice from a divided tray, put ballot inside an envelope, seal it and deposit it through a slot into an official collection box.
Ordinarily, Israelis with visual impairment need a sighted companion to help them choose and cast their ballot. About 22,000 eligible Israeli voters are legally blind, while another 100,000 have vision impairments.
This year, for the first time in Israel – and indeed anywhere – many of them will be able to vote independently because of an assistive device from Jerusalem-based OrCam.
This limited pilot experiment was arranged by Israel’s Central Elections Committee and the Center for the Blind in Israel, and is made possible by OrCam’s MyEye 2, the world’s most advanced wearable artificial vision device.
The wireless, lightweight device mounts magnetically on the wearer’s eyeglasses or sunglasses frame. Activated by an intuitive pointing gesture or by following the wearer’s gaze, MyEye reads printed and digital text aloud from any surface, and recognizes faces, products and more, in real time with no need for a smartphone or Wi-Fi.
“In addition to the sense of independence, which is essential for people who are blind and visually impaired, the use of OrCam devices guarantees another fundamental democratic principle, which is the secrecy of the vote,” the company said in a statement.
The pilot will be implemented in 12 polling stations from Eilat in the south to Acre in the north, including districts in minority sectors.
Voters at these specially adapted polling stations will have the option of using an OrCam MyEye device when choosing from the tray of paper ballots. MyEye will scan the text on the ballot they pick up and inform the voter which party it represents.
“This is actually the first time in the world blind and vision-impaired people can use breakthrough technology to exercise their right to vote independently without an escort,” said Ziv Aviram, cofounder, president and CEO of OrCam.
“Thanks to our cooperation with the Central Elections Committee, we will demonstrate how artificial intelligence technology can enhance the lives of tens of thousands of civilians. We hope that other countries around the world will adopt this Israeli pilot and enable voting independence for the blind and visually impaired.”
OrCam MyEye is available in 23 languages and in 37 countries.