New Smart Glasses to Aid Blind People
Bohs Hansen / 2 years ago
A pair of smart glasses that could transform the lives of blind and partially-sighted people could be in the shops as soon as 2016. The joint project between the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the University of Oxford and the has won a £500.000 grant in a Google charity competition.
The new smart glasses would enable those suffering from sight loss to see obstacles and faces, similar to the fictional high-tech visor worn by Geordi La Forge in the TV show Star Trek. They consist of a video camera on the frame, a computer processing unit small enough to fit in a pocket and a software to provide images of objects close-by onto the see-through displays.
The RNIB is planning to create 100 pairs of smart glasses and test them with 1000 people. This will be the first large-scale test of smart glasses and augmented reality for sight enhancement anywhere in the world. The glasses could later be sold for as little as £300. It is estimated the new smart glasses could help over half of the 300.000 people registered as blind in the UK.
“The idea of the smart glasses is to give people with poor vision an aid that boosts their awareness of what’s around them – allowing greater freedom, independence and confidence to get about, and a much improved quality of life,” says Dr Stephen Hicks of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford.
Further funding has been given by the Royal Society to create even more features for the glasses. Face, object and text recognition as well as an audio prompt via earpiece are being considered. “We eventually want to have a product that will look like a regular pair of glasses and cost no more than a few hundred pounds – about the same as a smart phone,” says Dr Hicks.
Iain Cairns of London tried out the smart glasses. The 43-year-old was diagnosed with the inherited eye condition choroideremia at 12 and only has an area of central vision left in each eye. Working at the computer and writing still works for him, but he did start to use a cane around three years ago.
When fitted with the glasses, Iain reacted: “I can see your face. It’s like the Lord of the Rings when he puts the ring on and sees things in a new way.”
More information about the smart glasses to aid blind people can be found on the RNIB’s homepage
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