CASE STUDY: Assistive tech helps 10-year-old football fan find new lease of independence
As a football fanatic, 10-year-old Mikey Poulli from London didn’t allow his sight loss to prevent him from enjoying – and playing – the game with the help of assistive technology specialist OrCam Technologies.
In fact, his unwavering determination to succeed has made him a viral sensation on social media, with many branding Mikey as the ‘daredevil of football’ and a ‘phenomenon’. Receiving praise and recognition from professional footballers, as well as the UK and overseas media, Mikey has become an inspiration to all athletes.
Mikey Poulli loses his sight at seven years old
At the age of six, Mikey was unexpectedly diagnosed with a rare incurable eye condition called Rone Cone Dystrophy, which, for many, eventually leads to blindness. In the next year and a half, his sight started to deteriorate and at the age of just seven, Mikey had lost all his vision.
He’s a goal-getter
By the end of the 2016 football season, Mikey was legally blind and unable to continue playing with his local club as it became too dangerous for him and his fellow teammates. Despite this seemingly insurmountable setback, Mikey still dreamed of becoming a professional football player. Drawing on his inner strength, Mikey practised with his family at any given opportunity and learnt how to play blind.
Mikey’s talent shined through when he joined a visually impaired football training session at Tottenham Hotspur Centre of Excellence. Training with specialised coaches, Mikey further developed his skills and passion for the sport. Impressed with Mikey’s natural ability, the Football Association (FA), the governing body of association football in England, sent scouts to monitor him in training. This ultimately led to him receiving FA funding for 1-1 specialist coaching.
Mikey’s story is not only a testament to his resilience, but also his determination to succeed in the face of adversity. He is now training with England’s visually impaired football team with the aim of playing internationally in the future.
Mikey’s new life with the OrCam MyEye
Partnering with OrCam Technologies, Argentinian football legend, Lionel Messi, invited Mikey to become part of his ‘OrCam Dream Team’. As a new group member of remarkable blind and visually impaired athletes from across the world singled out for their courage, Messi gifted Mikey with the life-changing wearable AI device to help Mikey reach his full potential off the pitch as well. The size of a finger, the wireless, offline and lightweight OrCam MyEye device seamlessly fits onto a pair of glasses, supporting individuals who are blind or partially sighted with increased independence.
The OrCam MyEye has empowered Mikey to easily and efficiently navigate everyday tasks, such as participating in class work as well as reading his books – both from the hardcopy and the computer screen. With the pioneering ‘computer vision’ AI technology, the device is able to capture an image of text, whether in print or on a screen and instantly read it back to Mikey. Through an intuitive pointing gesture, Mikey is now able to identify anything from product labels to store signs as well as his favourite football magazine.
Importantly, the device incorporates advanced ‘Smart Reading’ technology, with a ‘find for me’ capability. The OrCam MyEye scans a document for a particular word, headline or section, thereby allowing Mikey to save time when he reads the football training guides that have been sent from the FA – something he’s not been able to do independently until now.
At school, Mikey can also participate in comprehension activities and reading exercises, which are vital parts to his education. Teachers have been very impressed with Mikey’s progress and have identified a noticeable change in his confidence and learning independence.
He also uses the facial recognition technology to easily identify his friends and loved ones in real time at school and family events. Mikey benefits from the ‘time gesture’, activated by a simple raise of the wrist, which allows him to easily tell the time on the go.
John Poulli, Mikey’s father, explains: “Mikey’s OrCam MyEye has given him a new lease of independence, and he is able to do things now that he hasn’t been able to do in a very long time. We are honoured and privileged for Mikey to use this incredible assistive technology – it is quite overwhelming.
“He’s been picking up books that he hasn’t been able to read since he became blind – it’s made a meaningful difference. Now Mikey can read the books that aren’t just audio books, and in class he can read the same content as his classmates and therefore feel more included, at the same level as his peers.”