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Novartis launches ViaOpta Apple Watch app

Published on 01/07/15 at 10:28am
Novartis' VitaOpta app
Image: Novartis

Novartis has launched new features of its ViaOpta app for use with the Apple Watch and other wearable devices.

The app, which is available for iPhone and Android phones, has been updated to help people with visual impairments.

The app encourages visually impaired people to be more independent through step-by-step navigation and helps people who use the app to recognise everyday items such as money, colours, objects and people.

The app also includes information on specific accessibility facilities around them, such as tactile pavement and crossings, traffic lights with sound. Users can also point the devices camera in a desired direction or place and the voiceover will tell the user what is in front of them, helping navigate unfamiliar environments.

Novartis says that being able to use the ViaOpta app with wearable devices, such as Apple Watch and Android Wear, allows people with visual impairments to navigate daily life more easily.

ViaOpta Nav is the first turn-by-turn navigation app available for a wearable device designed specifically for visually impaired people, providing voice guidance and vibration settings, which alert the user to upcoming intersections and landmarks. Users and their caretakers can also share and access a person’s exact location.

The app is currently offered in several languages including English, German, French, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Greek, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian and Hungarian.

Ian Banks, chair of the European Forum Against Blindness (EFAB), explains: "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."

Commenting on the announcement, David Epstein, head of pharma division at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, says: "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."

The app is launched at the same time as Novartis hosted a two-day summit in Basel, Switzerland, on how pharma can ‘innovate for patients’, and launched the Swiss firm’s declaration for patients. Commenting on the declaration, Epstein says: "We are inspired by patients. This inspiration is what motivates us to discover and develop quality innovative medicines that help people live longer and better."

Yasmita Kumar

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