Big Pharma company steps into wearable devices market

Posted Jul 3, 2015 by Tim Sandle
Drugs giant Novartis has stepped into the wearables technology market with an app called ViaOpta, designed for the visually impaired. Established as a prototype, the company this week unveiled modifications.
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The ViaOpta app has been configured for use with the Apple Watch and rival devices as investment in the wearables market continues. The app also works on Apple’s iPhone and Android mobile devices, as well as the new generation of wearables.
The app is designed to help people with different forms of visual impairment. The primary function is to help people with vision problems to become more independent. This is achieved through a navigation function. The device also helps people recognize common objects, such as money and a set of familiar objects.
The app has a camera function and the wearer can direct the device in front of them and receive information via an audio feed about what is in front of them. In trials the app has also recognized traffic crossings, alterations to pavements and other traffic sounds. Voice commands are currently available in several languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
As well as voice instructions the device can also be configured to produce vibration signals. Vibrations are designed to work when the user is coming close to a road intersection or major landmark in the middle of the pathway. Due to this functionality, Novartis claim that the device is the first so-called “turn-by-turn” navigation application designed for a wearable device. This means the app works in a similar way to Google Maps.
Another useful addition is that the device allows the user, or their carer, to pinpoint the wearer’s exact position. This location can also be shared.
The video below gives more information about the app:
Talking with PharmaFile, Ian Banks, who is the head of the European Forum Against Blindness (EFAB), told the online magazine: "With the help of ViaOpta apps, people with impaired vision can do things such as walk to a nearby café, go to the pharmacy, and pick up their grandchildren at the kindergarten – helping to increase confidence and independence and maintaining discretion."