Final version of Saudi-led 'smart glasses' to be unveiled this month

Amal Glass is using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help thousands of blind and visually-impaired individuals in the region.
By Ahmed El Sherif
10:19 AM

Credit: Amal Glass

A GCC-based startup is preparing to release the final version of its smart AI-powered glasses, a product aiming to make a difference to those affected by moderate to severe visual impairment.

Amal Glass provides a virtual assistant that enables wearers to know more about their surrounding environment. Each pair of glasses relies on artificial intelligence technology to process the data and present it by voice.

Production of the glasses began in Dubai in January 2020, with the company forecasting to sell 10,000 units within the next two years. A single pair costs $1,500.

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Earlier this month, Amal Glass’ management confirmed to Middle East Exchange that the company has already received AED 105,000 ($28,587) worth of advance orders. The startup is partnering with governmental and private healthcare providers to sell the glasses, and has launched an open-source software development for external programmers to create software or apps for the glasses in the future.

“Our first goal [is] to help people – we look at that as our challenge. To reach people. To empower them,” Saad Albidnah, CEO of Amal Glass said. “This may be difficult because many blind people are poor, and they couldn’t afford to buy the glasses, so our challenge is to convince governments to provide the glasses to the people who need them.”

WHAT HAPPENED

Upon the release of the final product, Amal Glass – founded by Albidnah, his engineer son Bandar Albidnah, and inventor Mohammed Islam – will begin to seek external investment. It is also in talks to mobile operators from the Gulf region, such as in the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to provide affordable monthly subscription packages for data.

The smart glasses – which are classified as an electronic, not a medical device, and therefore do not require regulatory approval – are kitted with a number of sensors connected by wire to a data processing unit that’s placed in the user’s pocket. It can be used either via 4G data or wi-fi.

Built-in functions include distance calculations, colour detection, weather notifications, prayer time alerts and a GPS tracker. It is able to read printed text in both English and Arabic, and relay it in speech form via a small earpiece.

THE LARGER PICTURE

According to an academic study led by Les Ophtalmologistes Associés de Monastir in Tunisia, 0.95% of people in the Middle East and North Africa region are blind, while a further 4.62% have moderate to severe vision impairment.

Headquartered in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Amal Glass was first unveiled to the public in 2018. Last May, it came third in the Supernova Challenge at AI Everything, sharing a $100,000 prize with three other startups.

More regional news

(Top row: left to right) Dr Charles Alessi, HIMSS, Dr Peter Gocke, Charité in Berlin (Germany)

(Bottom row: left-right) Dr Afzal Chaudhry, Cambridge University Hospitals (UK), Dr Jan Kimpen, Philips (Netherlands)

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