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Augmented Reality Smart Glasses are Helping the Blind See Again

SmartSpecs utilise the little remaining vision of the legally blind in order to enhance the outline of their surroundings.

Paul Tamburroby Paul Tamburro

Augmented reality smart glasses developed by startup VA-ST are looking to help the legally blind see again, and thus far they’re achieving incredible results. Utilizing a depth sensor and software that enables users to more accurately see the outlines of individuals and surrounding objects/buildings the glasses, branded the SmartSpecs, are designed to make use of the “remaining vision” of the visually impaired. 

“Many people who lose their sight, even those who could be called “blind”, still have areas of remaining vision,” with VA-ST explaining that they can also help with “tunnel vision, cloudy vision, night blindness or patches of lost sight in the centre.”

VA-ST began a study this month in which it loaned the current SmartSpec models to 300 people with various eye conditions, and the company predicts that an eventual consumer model will retail for around $1,000. By that time VA-ST will have hopefully reduced the product in size, given that it’s a particularly heavyweight device that looks like it would cause no small degree of neck strain.

 

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With its Epson Moverio augmented reality glasses hidden beneath a large plastic frame, the device currently has to be strapped to the wearer’s head, with them also being required to carry a device with them that changes its settings. Its battery pack also only powers it for up to eight hours at a time, meaning a full day of usage is currently out of the question.

SmartSpecs

The SmartSpecs allow users to see outlines of people and objects around them

But regardless of its current flaws as a prototype, it’s certainly an intriguing and potentially life-changing prospect for the future. With VA-ST stating that even those who are legally declared blind still retain at least some of their vision, the SmartSpecs making use of this vision and enhancing it until the wearer can see the objects around them could prove to be life-changing for many.

Photo: VA-ST