Low vision is something that affects the lives and independence of many. Luckily, thanks to great technological advancements, these people have the opportunity to regain their independence. Smart glasses for low vision are a complete game changer. They allow users with impaired sight a chance at seeing the world and performing tasks they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
In this post, I’m going to talk about some of the most popular smart glasses for low vision out there. How they work, how much they cost and how they’ve helped people in their everyday lives.
What Does Low Vision Mean?
Glasses for low vision are for people who aren’t completely blind and still have some sight left. Low vision means that the sight can not be corrected by eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery.
The different types of low vision include hazy vision, night blindness, blurred vision, loss of central vision and loss of peripheral vision. Having low vision might mean not being able to identity faces of loved ones. It leads to trouble performing every-day tasks like reading, cooking and crafting.
People with the disorder find it difficult to read street, bus, and store signs. Additionally the lighting at work or home might also seem darker, making it difficult to perform various regular tasks.
All of this clearly affects one’s independence and quality of life. This is where the high-tech glasses come to rescue and help transform lives.
There are different types of smart glasses that help with low vision. One of the technological approaches is glasses that work on the basis of a video camera. NuEyes is an example of this category which we are going to cover first.
The glasses are built upon technologies originally designed for military use. NuEyes partnered with ODG to make this technology available for people with low vision. NuEyes uses an HD video camera which magnifies what you’re looking at and displays it on the inside of the glasses.
The glasses feature a display with 3D stereoscopic ultra-transparent high-definition and can shoot 1080p resolution video image at 60 frames per second. NuEyes are also programmable in terms of light sensitivity – meaning they can go dark on command. Telescopic lenses are incorporated into the glasses, which magnify without pixelating the content.
In addition to helping you see, the NuEyes Pro glasses have some neat gadgets included as well. For example, they enable you to stream TV and movies to the smart glasses.
The android operating system which they run on, makes it easy to check e-mails and browse the web. The glasses have up to 12x magnification and enable control over the contrast and color of the image
The glasses also have bar/QR code scanning and OCR (optical character recognition) which makes it possible to speak out print documents. NuEyes Pro glasses are controllable using a wireless controller or voice commands.
The glasses have a sleek, black look to them. They’re also quite lightweight, weighing only 125 grams. This means you can use the glasses for prolonged time without them getting too uncomfortable on your head.
While using the product, you might sense some heat on the top part of the frame. However, there is no need to worry. NuEyes is a fully functioning computer unit and therefore will warm up like any tablet or laptop when used. The heat is only felt on the area on top of the glasses and not in the user’s face.
The NuEyes can cost between $5,995 – $6,195 and this might seem quite steep at first. Especially when considering the fact that many regular smart glasses can come in at around the $1000 price point.
However, according to NuEyes, their product comes with “the lowest price in augmented reality glasses with the most advanced system in low vision technology“. Additionally, the NuEyes glasses may be covered by insurance up to 50%, which definitely helps to make them more affordable.
eSight 3 is another popular producer of smart glasses for low vision. The glasses work on the basis of a high-speed, high-definition camera. The ability of eSight to tilt up and down allows the wearer the experience of having access to their native peripheral vision.
It offers similar features as NuEyes. Content is streamed directly to the eSight thanks to its Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and HDMI capabilities. However, while the NuEyes offer a zoom of 12 times, the eSight has a zoom of up to 24 times instead. eSight also enables you to take photos, which NuEyes doesn’t. The device functions on a remote control.
The eSight 3 is more expensive than NuEyes – a pair of these would cost you a whopping $9,995 at the time of writing. However, this is already less expensive than the original release eSight, which cost $15,000. Most probably the price will keep coming down as time and technology progresses.
Low Vision Specialists of Maryland & Virginia website justify the price of the glasses by the fact that they are made of extremely sophisticated and expensive component parts. Millions of dollars have also gone into research and development and more will be spent on further research and efforts on improving the product.
This high cost of the glasses sadly means that many people who would greatly benefit from these, can not afford them.
However, in some cases eSight will help people get the glasses who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them. This can be achieved through insurance reimbursements, government programs, employer disability programs, corporate sponsorships, service club donations, charitable foundation contributions, crowd sourcing or other fundraising efforts.
Aira Smart Glasses
Lastly we have Aira, which offers a different kind, but just as smart of a solution. Instead of helping the user see via cameras, this service connects the person to a remotely-located, highly trained agent.
The agent becomes the person’s eyes, so to speak. They see what the visually impaired person sees in real-time through a camera and talk them through the situation they’re in. The agent also sees a screen with the customer’s location on Google Maps, along with other relevant information like bus schedules or restaurant reviews.
Aira functions paired with Horizon, Austria or Aira Classic smart glasses, or as a mobile app. Since Aira is based on assistance through voice, it is also suitable for those who have completely lost vision, in addition to those with low vision.
Aira can be of help in practically any real life situation. Among others, activities that Aira agents are trained to work with include going to the airport, using public transportation, shopping, navigating city streets and increasing work productivity. The agents are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The idea of someone else being able to “see through your eyes” might raise the question of privacy issues. However, according to their site, there is no need to fret. Unless a request is made to contact an Aira agent, the camera will not be turned on. There is also the possibility of privacy mode, which allows the user to pause the streaming.
Aira service is priced by the minute. The most popular standard plan entails 120 minutes per month and costs $99. Renting out the Horizon Smart Glasses and Horizon Phone to use the service costs $25 per month over a 24-month period.
Paying for the service by the minute means that the user should really use their time effectively. They might possibly end up having to pick and choose between activities they need assistance with because of the time limit.
Smart glasses for low vision can literally be life-altering for many people. There is an abundance of happy clients with emotional stories to support this claim.
Robert Cook was born with a condition called degenerative cataracts, which has caused him to be legally blind his whole life. Robert is a musician and thanks to the NuEyes smart glasses, he was able to see his audience for the first time. The smart glasses also enabled him to see his wife, daughter and closest friends for the first time.
On the eSight webpage, there is even a separate category “Tear-Jerkers” under customer experiences. For example, there’s this young girl who is legally blind, but thanks to eSight, is able to see the Easter Bunny for the first time. Is someone chopping onions?
Aira has had a big impact in the life of Erich Manser, who has retinitis pigmentosa. This condition makes his vision feel like looking through a straw that has one end covered over with wax paper. Aira and his personal agent helped him complete the Boston Marathon.
These are just a few examples of how the technology of smart glasses for low vision has transformed lives. There are plenty more of similar emotional stories where lives have been improved and changed.
Smart glasses for low vision are a great example of how technology can transform our lives. They are a great tool for helping people with low vision gain independence in carrying out every day tasks.
For people with different medical conditions and needs, there are different products and services available to choose from. Although the solutions generally tend to be quite pricey, there are several options available to make them more reachable. This includes insurance reimbursements, employer disability programs and crowdfunding among others.
Hopefully the solutions will become more and more attainable in the future, so that the people with such unfortunate disadvantages could also have a chance at living a fulfilling and normal ever day life.