|Kathy Beitz, who was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition called Stargardt’s disease at age 11 and is blind, sees her newborn baby in this frame from a video.
OTTAWA-based eSight Eyewear is helping practically blind people to get 20/20 vision. In October 2013 the company began offering its game-changing eyewear to the public.
While most vision-enhancing devices improve close-range vision or distance vision, but not both—at least not flawlessly—eSight automatically adapts to whatever the user is looking at, whether it is a book 12 inches away or a TV screen 12 feet away.
Vision-boosting eSight eyeware allows people with impaired vision to adjust the zoom, contrast, or colour balance of their field of vision.
Call it eSight electronic glasses or electronic glasses or better still e-glasses but the marvellous thing this special piece of electronic glasses does for legally blind patients should not be overemphasized.
Before reviewing the technology behind this wonderful invention, let’s know what legal blindness is all about first. Legal blindness simply means the level of vision loss or visual impairment that has been legally defined either to obtain eligibility for government-funded disability benefits or to limit activities like driving for safety purposes. Clinically, it is considered when the best corrected visual acuity in the better eye is less than or equals to 6/60 or if visual acuity in that eye is better than 6/60, visual field is less than or equals to 20 degrees in the widest diameter.
Optic nerve imperfection
|Eyewear eSight’s digital goggles allow the visually impaired to see better.
“Oh Mommy, there you’re,” little Christopher born with optic nerve hypoplasia (i.e optic nerve not fully developed before birth) exclaimed after wearing the eSight glasses for the first time. His mom, overwhelmed and excited told ABC News that Chris was born with an eye condition that does not allow him to see things unless he gets really close and can only watch television by sitting very close with his nose to the screen (i.e he can only see things that are five inches from his nose).
Another similar scenario occurred in Selinsgrove when Kaufman, a legally blind man sees the world perfectly well whenever he puts the eSight glasses on.
“I was able to read stories to my son. I can now see images at a distance, I can even see facial expressions and I can now watch my son play in the yard with his swing, something I was not able to do before,” Kaufman said.
Kathy Beitz, a legally blind mother, saw her newborn baby for the very first time after giving birth to the baby. She was overwhelmed to see her baby and husband at the same time with the help of this amazing piece of glass.
“For the first baby that I get to actually look at being my own is very overwhelming. Even as I looked at my husband, it was such a good feeling. I got to fall in love with him,” said Beitz. Hmmm! This is love at first sight, so touching. I nearly cry while watching her.
The actual technology looks like a pair of bulky, futuristic sunglasses connected to a small controller unit. The glasses contain a high-definition camera that captures whatever the user is looking at and then projects that in real time onto two screens in front of a person’s eyes. Those images can be personalized for size, colour and contrast depending on the user’s needs.
|Animated gif showing eSight’s googles zooming in on a newspaper headline. Vision-boosting eSight goggles allows people with impaired vision to adjust the zoom, contrast, or colour balance of their field of vision.
The eyewear doesn’t work for all types of low vision and blindness—but it does improve sight for those with macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and some kinds of glaucoma.
Hefty price tag
With an aging population and a global diabetes epidemic raging, the number of people with severe vision impairments is growing quickly. And although the eyewear might look cumbersome and comes with a hefty price tag—around $15,000 for the eyewear and the service package—it allows those people to engage fully with the world around them. “It’s somewhat transformational,” says CEO Kevin Rankin. “It lets people go about their lives.”
How does this eSight glasses really work, what’s actually behind this groundbreaking eSight technology. So I did a thorough research on eSight electronic glasses and observed that eSight glass is a hands-free wearable headset which carries a very small high-speed camera. The work of the camera is to capture everything the wearer is actually looking at and the captured video is streamed and sent to a proprietary software computer that processes each captured video pixel.
The processed (or enhanced) video is sent back to the headset which displays it on two organic-LED screens placed in front of the wearer’s eyes. These enhanced video images are seen clearly by the wearer with unprecedented visual clarity thereby suppressing the effects of most visual impairments on the eSight glasses.
All this processes will happen within a blink of an eye without discernible lag time for the wearer. Hence the user can instantly switch from near vision (reading a book) - to intermediate vision (looking at someone close to him/her) - to distance vision (looking through the window to see if it’s raining). The wearer can even adjust the brightness, color, contrast and magnification of the images he/she is viewing and can also store them for future viewing.
Won’t work for totally blind people
Unfortunately, eSight will not work for people who are totally or profoundly blind but the good news is that it can work on people with low vision including individuals that are legally blind and this group represents about 86% of 300 million people in the world that are visually impaired or blind. The eye conditions were eSight works include the following:
Optic Nerve Hypoplasia
Retinopathy of Prematurity
Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy
Some forms of Glaucoma
Some forms of Retinitis Pigmentosa.