Help For The Blind: Eyesight ‘restoration’ with VR

vision-help




Resembling the visor worn by Geordi La Forge in Star Trek, the eSight 3 allows the legally blind to do just about anything that a fully sighted person is able to do, whether that’s reading the newspaper or playing basketball… Once you get over the impulse to perform painful Star Trek character impersonations. Our friends over at VRE (VR Hire in London) delve into the workings of the Esight headset.

Esight’s headsets, on first glance at least, do look like any other virtual or augmented reality headset on the market, but outward visuals is pretty much where the resemblance ends. The end goal of the eSight 3 is the polar opposite of what VR and AR technology sets out to do. While the former attempt to bring you into digital worlds or bring digital objects to you, the eSight brings the real world to you instead.

While that can be achieved for most people by looking out of the window, for the legally blind it is an amazing step forward in technological ability that is, and I don’t use this term lightly, a game changer.

The eSight 3, the latest iteration, is cheaper and lighter than the previous models but they do all work on the same principle. Video from the high-speed HD camera is processed algorithmically, to enhance contrast and output quality to the twin OLED displays. All of this works together to allow those with impaired vision to see the world around them more clearly than was ever possible before.

Controlled with an attached remote control, the eSight 3 is completely portable – in every sense – and has a battery that will last for around the 6 hour mark.

 

Mimicking the human eye is no easy task

The eSight team had some significant challenges in designing this device, after all they were trying to create something that replicated vision in humans. One of the larger challenges was reducing latency to as close as zero as possible. Bringing the user real world video, as close to real time as possible is a key component of making something like the eSight 3 a success. The issue of peripheral vision is important too, to provide a ‘true’ field of vision that doesn’t induce nausea or cause the wearer to lose their balance.

Another thing that most people take for granted is the ability of the human eye to shift focus between near and far objects. The eSight 3 can do this too, with impressive results. Not only that, users can also selectively zoom in on individual objects, something the rest of us could dream of.

According to a report in the The Wall Street Journal, esight is taking full advantage of recent advancements in in virtual reality headset / smartphone technology in order to improve upon the eSight 3. At the time writing, eSight have sold and shipped around 1,000 eSight 3 devices – and at $10,000 each that is no small feat.

The device may not be cheap, and the majority of insurance companies won’t cover them (something which ought to change sooner rather than later), but the chief executive of eSight, Brian Mech, has stated to the Wall Street Journal that getting device to those that need them is “a battle we are starting to wage.”.

Obviously this kind of device is not for everybody, and nor is it meant to be, but in an era of rapidly evolving technology, it is heartening to see device developers creating something that can have real impact and help to improve the everyday lives of other people.

 

The content of this article was produced from our friends over at VRE.