New glasses help the legally blind see

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
February 27, 2017News
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After spending the past decade and $32 million working on the technology, a Canadian company is releasing a sleek version of electronic glasses that enable the legally blind to see.

The latest version of ESight’s technology is a gadget that vaguely resembles the visor worn by the blind “Star Trek” character Geordi La Forge, played by LeVar Burton.

The third-generation model lets wearers magnify the video feed up to 24 times, compared to just 14 times in earlier models. There’s a hand control for adjusting brightness and contrast. The new glasses also come with a more powerful high-definition camera.

ESight believes that about 200 million people worldwide with visual acuity of 20/70 to 20/1200 could be potential candidates for its glasses. That number includes people with a variety of disabling eye conditions such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, ocular albinism, Stargardt’s disease, or optic nerve hypoplasia.

So far, though, the company has sold only about 1,000 headsets, despite the testimonials of wearers who’ve become true believers.

Take, for instance, Yvonne Felix, an artist who now works as an advocate for eSight after seeing the previously indistinguishable faces of her husband and two sons for the first time via its glasses.

The headsets also carry an eye-popping price tag. The latest version of the glasses, released just last week, sells for about $10,000. While that’s $5,000 less than its predecessor, it’s still a lot for people who often have trouble getting high-paying jobs because they can’t see.

Insurers won’t cover the cost; they consider the glasses an “assistive” technology similar to hearing aids.

ESight CEO Brian Mech said the latest improvements might help insurers overcome their short-sighted view of his product. Mech argues that it would be more cost-effective for insurers to pay for the headsets, even in part, than to cover more expensive surgical procedures that may restore some sight to the visually impaired.

ESight isn’t the only company focused on helping the legally blind. Other companies working on high-tech glasses and related tools include Aira, Orcam, ThirdEye, NuEyes, and Microsoft .

(Reuters)

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