AR for the Blind

Virtual reality is serving real-world needs in ways most people would have never imagined. This technology has progressed quite rapidly from a means of playing interactive video games. Virtual reality is now being used to help the blind see and interact with the world around them.

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If you watched Star Trek in the 1980s and 1990s, you probably remember Geordi La Forge. He was blind but made use of a special visor placed over his eyes to see. A similar visor exists today. It is called “eSight”. This incredible technological innovation makes use of virtual reality as well as augmented reality. Specifically, the Geordie la Forge-esque eye visor uses camera screens and processors. Two screens are placed in front of the eyes to display images through the device’s internal VR system. Similar to augmented reality, the device also features a camera in the front that captures the surrounding world.

The end result is a complex device that allows wearers to determine the amount of light that hits the eyes, empowering them to see the world with incredible clarity. Some of those who don the esight enjoy a level of visual clarity that exceeds that of “normal” people who have 20/20 vision. Wearers can zoom in, freeze images, pan images and do plenty more. Those who still have some peripheral vision have their eSight tuned to make use of this limited line of sight.

A Cure for the Blind?

Though no  one desires to wear a somewhat obstructive visor over their eyes, eSight will certainly suffice for the time being. It is improving the lives of millions of individuals across the world. In fact, 1.3 million Americans are legally blind. Consider the case of Yvonne Felix. She lost the majority of her vision after being hit by a car. Yvonne was unable to see regular print, faces, traffic, computer screens etc. She could not work a desk job or even cross the street. Yvonne now dons eSight. This breakthrough technology allows her to see colors, faces and even small details like pupils dilating. Yvonne has relied on eSight for over four years. She was one of the first to wear the sight-improving device. Today, she is a company spokeswoman.

ESight Details

Each version of eSight gets lighter and smaller as time progresses. The technology relies on a battery in a hand-held controller for operation. The battery lasts six and a half hours. There is no need for surgery or implants. About three-quarters of sight-impaired individuals who use eSight report it is effective. Over 1,000 of the devices have been sold to date. A new version of eSight (eSight 3) will debut later this month. eSight costs a pretty penny. However, the vast majority of those who shell out the $10,000 necessary for the latest version of the device are quick to report it is worth the money.

Though the eSight visor has FDA clearance and is classified as a Class I medical device, most health insurance companies do not cover its cost. However, it is not a guarantee that insurers will immediately deny full or partial coverage for the unit. Anyone who lacks adequate vision should give eSight a chance and check with their health insurance company to determine if some or part of the cost can be covered through insurance. Some employers have covered the cost of eSight as a means of retaining talented employees who lost some or all of their vision.

VR And AR Once Again Prove to be Game Changers

It seems like VR and AR devices are popping up left and right in all sorts of fields and industries. From the operating room to the classroom, living room and just about everywhere else, virtual reality is quickly becoming ubiquitous. It is empowering the blind to see, surgeons to perform more accurate surgeries and the fearful to become brave. The real-world applications of  VR will only continue to expand as we rapidly hurtle into a high-tech future.