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HomeminewsSmart Specs to Offer ‘Sight’ to People Who Are Blind

Smart Specs to Offer ‘Sight’ to People Who Are Blind

An Australian scientist working in the UK is using technology developed for smart phones to develop a pair of glasses that could help blind people ‘see’.

Neuroscientist, Dr. Stephen Hicks, said the glasses used tiny cameras, computers and technology developed for smart phones to alert the wearer to objects in their surroundings using bright lights.

Dr. Hicks, who is based at Oxford University, said the ‘smart specs’ would have an advantage over retinal prosthetics because they would be cheap to produce, and would not require invasive surgery.

The spectacles would be ideal for elderly people with macular degeneration, who see objects as a blur but cannot focus, see much colour or make out specifics. Cameras attached to the rim of the glasses capture information about the distance and dimension of objects.

Informationsynthesised… and playedinto the wearer’s ear

This information is then sent to a portable computer, which interprets the shape as light. The brighter and bigger the light, the closer and larger the object.

For patients with some colour vision, different colours lights could be used to distinguish between stationary and mobile objects, Dr. Hicks said.

Dr. Hicks said his team was conducting laboratory-based tests at the moment, and would be ready for testing “in real world environments” in early 2012. He expected the glasses would be available commercially within the next few years.

He envisages the glasses eventually being able to read bus numbers and signs, with the information synthesised into a voice and played into the wearer’s ear.

“The main aim is to improve the independence and quality of life of people who are legally blind,” Dr. Hicks said.

“Depression is a huge problem for people who are registered as blind, but this would give them the chance to shop, to catch public transport and to meet friends and alleviate the potential for depression.”

He said, eventually, the technology might be able to be sufficiently developed to enable facial recognition of a limited database of people, or to allow some people to return to employment.