When it comes to helping the blind and the visually-impaired, many startups have focused on finding a way to connect sighted people with those who cannot see or have restrictions on how well they can see. While such ideas are noble and invaluable to those who have lost all or much of their vision, they can cause people to feel co-dependent and experience a feeling of lost dignity by always having to rely on another person to help them “see” the world.
London-based startup GiveVision is a health tech startup that developed wearable visual aids for those who have a severe sight impairment. Their visual aid is called SightPlus and it combines both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to shine light into the parts of a seeing-impaired person’s eye that are still working and can capture some images. As a result, they can visualize objects better, almost like the missing puzzle pieces have been put in for them.
How it works
It looks similar to the VR headsets we’re all used to. The device helps the user visualize objects by magnifying close-up or far-away objects, altering the contrast to make objects more visible and applying custom filters to objects. It is hands-free and portable, best of all it is made very simple to use for numerous tasks.
The way the device works is by using a combination of a near-distance magnifier and long-distance telescope. If it sounds futuristic and amazing, well that’s because it is. While it isn’t useful for those who are completely blind and can just sense light, it can be used for other severely visually impaired people for tasks like reading, watching TV, recognizing the faces and stationary hobbies like painting and playing music.
SightPlus cannot be used as a mobility aid, meaning that tasks that require the user to be mobile like walking and driving are not improved by the device. On their website, they feature a demonstration that gives those interested an idea of how their product helps the visually impaired.
A completely blurred image is brought into life, once magnified by their demonstrative magnifying tool. It can even be used to read very fine print, making it a must-have for basic tasks like checking the ingredients on a food package or the dosage on a medicine bottle. While these uses seem small and insignificant, imagine always having to ask for assistance any time you need to check a food label, or if you get sick and want to know how much NyQuil to use – not to mention requiring assistance in pouring your dose at all.
The amount of freedom that comes from being able to “see” the world around you, without the assistance of others who would always have to be around and able/willing to help you is very important to those who are visually impaired, as it is to others who often require the assistance of others.
The ability to visualize objects in a static environment also means that work is made easier, which for many people may mean that they can return to their favorite hobbies or even back to work entirely.
Even for those who retained an intermediate level of sight, the contrast feature means that they will be able to view objects with greater detail, which can be the difference between grabbing an apple or a pear or the difference between having some vague conception of what your son looks like and being able to see the twinkle in his eyes.
If you’re ready to get your hands on this headset, then you’re not alone but you’ll have to hold your horses. SightPlus is currently in the trial and research phase in the UK, meaning UK residents can send a contact form to be involved in research studies with the headset and others can sign up to be contacted when the product becomes available in their area.