Impaired vision makes it hard to do everyday activities, and although it can’t be fixed with glasses, contact lenses, or other standard treatments, one recent breakthrough may help those suffering from untreatable vision problems better perceive their surroundings.
The helpful device was invented by two parents whose two-year-old son, Biel, had been diagnosed with low vision — a condition much more common than blindness. In Biel’s case, the condition resulted from an optic nerve problem, but low vision can also be caused by defects in the retina, brain, or other parts of the visual system.
Since low vision can’t be corrected with glasses or surgery, Biel’s parents sought to develop a technology that could offer some form of support. In 2017, Jaume Puig, a Spanish electrical engineer, and his wife Constanza Lucero, a doctor, founded Biel Glasses — the company behind a digital device to help those with low vision to move about safely on their own.
“There are canes and guide dogs. Nothing else. We got into this because we saw there was a need for it,” Puig told AFP at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), where the headset is currently on display.
Resembling something between gaming goggles and glasses, the augmented reality (AR) glasses create a 3D image onto which text, graphics, and video can be overlaid upon real-world images. It also uses AI to detect and signal obstacles.
“We thought we could use these technologies to take advantage of the vision he does have so he can be more independent. Maybe we can’t cure him, but we can help him,” said Puig of his son who is now eight.
As explained by TechExplore, when someone wearing the device approaches an obstacle in their path, a large circle will appear on the screen warning them of the object. The AR glasses also allow the wearer to zoom in on a street sign or other object.
The parents worked together with a team of doctors and computer engineers to develop the glasses which have been approved for use in the European Union. The device is expected to go on sale in Spain and Denmark later this year. Each piece, which has to be customized for the specific needs of each user, will cost about $5,850.