Smart Specs Enhance Vision For Legally Blind

Smart Specs developed by VA-ST to enhance vision for legally blind
Smart Specs developed by VA-ST
Many assume that blind people experience complete darkness, but about 90% of people who are legally blind have some degree of sight. Legally blind is defined as having less than 20/200 corrected vision in your better eye. With 20/200 vision, a person can see at 20 feet, what another with ‘normal vision’ can see at 200 feet. Some may have decent peripheral vision and no sight in the center, while others may only have central sight or “tunnel vision”. They may be able to see light and objects at a close distance.
 
VA-ST, a startup originating from the University of Oxford, has developed Smart Specs, glasses that enhance vision for legally blind and partially sighted. The glasses use 3D cameras originally developed for Xbox to capture real time images. Dark objects become black, while bright objects become white, and far away objects are erased to reduce visual clutter. The wearer can even pause the visual feed and zoom in for greater detail, and the camera works in the dark allowing for night vision.

The Smart Specs can be outfitted with sunglass lenses and prescription inserts. The battery-powered control box is worn over the shoulder giving easy access to the zoom, pause and enhance visions features which include daytime color, high contrast amplification and low light navigation.

Smart Specs can show a natural colour image, or a simplified
Smart Specs can show a natural colour image, or a simplified
high contrast display depending on the needs of the user.
Earlier this year VA-ST tested 300 pair of glasses on people with macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma. Hannah Thompson, who helped test the prototype said:
 
“Objects which would have been impossible for me to see shone before my eyes in shades of pink and white. I found the glasses incredibly easy to use and within minutes I was happily navigating my way around a series of obstacles. I would find these glasses especially useful at night, in glaring sunlight or in dappled shade.”
 
In 2014 the founders of VA-ST, Stephen Hicks, Phil Torr and Ian Wilson, won a Google Global Impact Challenge award with their partners Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to further develop the glasses. The first version of the Smart Specs will most likely be available to buy in early in 2016 for around $1,000 a pair. The company is seeking investment and partners for further development, which will focus on shrinking the format and reduce the weight of the glasses.