New augmented reality smart glasses developed by researchers at Oxford University can help people with visual impairments improve their vision by providing depth-based feedback, allowing users to ''see'' better. Joel Flynn reports.
It might look like a cartoon, but this could change the lives of those with sight problems. Images like these are seen by wearers of Oxford University's new smart-glasses. The augmented reality spectacles are designed to help people with serious visual impairments see. Developed by Stephen Hicks and his research team, they use cameras to augment vision. Hicks says they even work for those registered blind, by improving their depth perception. SOUNDBITE: Oxford University Neuroscience Researcher, Stephen Hicks, saying (English): "When you go blind, you generally have some sight remaining, and using a combination of cameras and a see-through display, we're able to enhance nearby objects to make them easier to see for obstacle avoidance and also facial recognition." The glasses use three-dimensional cameras that can detect the structure and position of nearby objects. Software then uses that information to block out the background and highlight only what's nearest to the user. SOUNDBITE: Oxford University Neuroscience Researcher, Stephen Hicks, saying (English): "We turn that into a high contrast cartoon that we then present on the inside of a see-through pair of glasses, and then we can add the person's normal vision to the enhanced view that you can show here, and allow the person to use their remaining site as the generally would have done to see the world in a better way." More than 360,000 people in the UK are registered as blind, according to a British sight charity. Hicks says the glasses are different to other products - depth perception a unique facet of the smart-glasses technology. Partnered with a British blind charity and the UK government, early prototypes have shown promise - Google helping fund the research after it won an award. After testing the glasses outside a laboratory setting, the final challenge before production will be to make them smaller.