Project Details

A person wearing the smart glasses

Smart Glasses

Making the world more visible for the visually impaired


Project URL:
Project Twitter: @rnib

Organisations Involved RNIB (@rnib)
Oxford University (@uniofoxford)

  • Health
  • Social Exclusion
  • Physical Computing

RNIB is developing 'smart glasses’ that can increase the vision of those with sight loss.

Over 90% of the 2m people living with sight loss in the UK have some residual vision. The glasses, developed by researchers at Oxford University, are fitted with a 3D camera which captures, processes and projects enhanced images in real-time. Nearby objects such as faces, doorways, obstacles or hazards are projected onto lenses so they appear with more definition and clarity than they would in everyday life.

Dr Stephen Hicks, from the University of Oxford, says user-testers have been amazed by the results: ‘they can see details in faces, they can see their own hands or have seen their guide dog for the first time.’ The Royal National Institute of Blind People says they could be ‘incredibly important’ in offering independence to some people with residual sight.

The current prototype is cumbersome: unwieldy spectacles attached by a cable to a computer in a backpack, but £500,000 won through Google Impact’s People’s Choice Award will allow the team to make 100 glasses for further testing in the home, and accelerate their bid to bring out a smaller, lighter, low-cost commercially available model. This will be connected to something about the size of a mobile phone and with an RRP of just £300 by 2016.

Hicks studied retinal prosthetics in which a chip is implanted in the back of the eye to improve vision for those with eye conditions. He developed the smart glasses when he realised the computer-enhanced images displayed close to the eye had greater benefits. The glasses are particularly helpful for those with peripheral sight loss and common eye conditions, such as age related macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Image courtesy of RNIB

Last updated: 13th of August, 2014

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