The Israel election happening today will be one of the most closely-fought in years, but there is another way it is making history.
In addition to seeing incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seek a record fifth term, it will also be the first time that technology is used to enable the blind or visually impaired to vote without human assistance at any national election.
In a pilot programme available at 12 polling stations across the country, those with visual impairments will be given the option of using a MyEye artificial vision device.
Developed by OrCam, the technology is capable of analysing visual information and communicating it directly to its wearer, in this case the information on ballot slips. This will allow blind voters to select the correct candidate, and then hear a confirmation that their choice has been correctly made.
Other applications for the technology include reading restaurant menus, identifying currency and recognising faces.
The device itself is designed to magnetically attach to a pair of glasses, and weighs 22.5g. Crucially, it does not store any data on the device, and processes data offline in a secure manner, allowing it to be approved for use in the Israel election by cybersecurity experts.
Efforts to improve accessibility for the Israel election
The project to develop and deploy the technology was the result of a partnership with the Center for the Blind in Israel and OrCam.
It was chosen after a tender process aimed at improving accessibility of the Israel election, and is aimed to improve access for the 122,000 Israeli voters who are blind or have visual impairments.
If the pilot project at the Israel election proves successful, it is likely the technology will see adoption in other elections in the future.
“This is actually the first time in the world that breakthrough technology will enable blind and visually impaired people to exercise the right to vote independently and without being accompanied,” said OrCam co-founder, president and CEO Ziv Aviram.
“Thanks to our cooperation with the Elections Committee, we will demonstrate how our ground-breaking artificial intelligence technology empowers the lives of tens of thousands of citizens. We hope that the world will adopt the pilot that the State of Israel is leading, and will enable independence for the blind and other visually impaired people around the world.”