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Novartis launches Apple Watch app for the visually impaired

Upgraded ViaOpta app already works on iPhone and Android phones

Novartis Apple Watch ViaOpta apps 

Novartis has upgraded its ViaOpta apps for the visually impaired, allowing them to work with the Apple Watch and other smart watches.

The apps, which were first launched last year for iPhone and Android smartphones, aim to aid independence through navigational prompts and assist recognition of everyday items such as money and other objects.

Ian Banks, chair of The European Forum Against Blindness (EFAB), said: "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."

ViaOpta Nav is a 'turn-by-turn' app that provides voice guidance and vibration alerts when walking about upcoming junctions and landmarks and can allow users to share their exact location with their carers. Its updated version for the Apple Watch and other devices includes information on 'points of interest' and extends its maps coverage.

Meanwhile, the ViaOpta Daily app, which has a range of functions such as colour and currency recognition, has been upgraded to identify objects in the user's field of vision when they point their device's camera at an object.

David Epstein, head of Novartis Pharmaceuticals' Pharma Division, said: "Novartis is committed to providing innovative solutions which go beyond medicine, like these apps for the visually impaired which benefit their daily quality of life.

"We are proud to contribute and play a role in making these simple and convenient tools like the ViaOpta Daily and ViaOpta Nav apps available around the world."

The smartphone versions of the ViaOpta apps won the European Excellence Award in 2014 and were downloaded over 6,700 times during the first two months after launch.

The apps are currently available in a number of languages, including English, German, French, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Greek, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian and Hungarian, and Novartis said it has more versions in development.

Novartis' eye-care interests centre around its Alcon division and its Wet AMD treatment Lucentis (ranibizumab) and its efforts to go 'beyond the pill' and develop additional digital health services have recently seen it partner with Qualcomm and Google, the latter on the development of 'smart contact lens'.

30th June 2015

From: Healthcare

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