The Braille alphabet inserted on drugs has been a revolution for all visually impaired and blind patients, an extra support in favor of their autonomy, even in the taking of medicines. But by itself it is not enough, or rather it may not be enough, in case that writing is not known. For this reason, there are those who have been working for some time on something alternative that, using digital technologies, allows easy reading of drugs, indications on dosage and expiration date, using only the camera of a smartphone.
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A smartphone is enough
The basic idea is quite simple: use a smartphone to frame the barcode of a drug. But it’s only deceptively simple, because scanning a barcode can be tricky for a blind person. Here then is that smart technologies for their identification could represent an extra help. This is the case of the Scandit system, optimized to recognize barcodes in less than ideal conditions: from a distance, in low light, not aligned with the camera. Scandit has recently been adopted by the Theia app for drug scanning: all essential information, such as name, dosage, expiration and lot, are shown on the app interface and, above all, read aloud. For now only in French, but the promise is that it will soon be available in other languages and perhaps even integrated into a system that helps remember when to take drugs. It goes without saying that as an app, to work on all smartphones, you need to activate the accessibility modes suitable for visually impaired users.
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However, Theia is not the only app nor the only attempt to digitize and simplify the intake of drugs for the visually impaired. In the last decade, in fact, several research groups have developed systems for the digital recognition of drugs, based on different technologies, but all of them substantially exploit systems for the interpretation of images, possibly converted into text and, therefore, into voice. . There have been projects that simply provided for image recognition systems and others that instead counted on the involvement of pharmacists, called to label drugs with a qrcode. Also in Italy, with the case of a pharmacy that proposed the creation of an embossed label to be found easily, without the need for special scanner readers.