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Electronic Smart Glasses Create Hope for the Legally Blind

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerJuly 27, 2018

A loss of vision has a significant impact on the lives of those who experience it. Vision loss can affect independence, mental well-being, mobility, social autonomy and overall quality of life in seniors. Fortunately, innovative assistive devices for seniors with vision conditions – like electronic smart glasses – are on the rise.

Read more about NuEyes, a smart glass technology that is allowing wearers to regain their independence and sight.

Depression and Vision Loss

The prospect of losing our vision as we age is frightening and worrisome and can lead to depression. In fact, amongst adults in the United States, blindness was ranked as one of the most feared health conditions, after AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

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The National Center for Biotechnology Information researched the correlation between depression and a vision loss and discovered that there are “strong associations between loss of visual function… and the presence of depressive symptoms among U.S. adults.” The study interviewed 10,480 people and concluded that adults with vision loss are “at least 90% more likely to have depression than those without.”

The study also referred to published research which indicates that for those with vision loss, “receipt of rehabilitation services and use of assistive devices are useful in addressing the issue of depression.” In other words, individuals who seek support are more likely to overcome feelings of depression and continue living meaningful, productive lives, even with vision loss.

Electronic Smart Glasses Give Hope to the Legally Blind

Fortunately, innovative assistive devices for seniors with vision conditions – like electronic smart glasses – are on the rise.

NuEyes are an assistive device for individuals experiencing a variety of vision conditions, including, but not limited to:

  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Glaucoma
  • Macular degeneration
  • Retinitis pigmentosa

For NuEyes to be effective, a person’s vision equity range must be better than 20/600, meaning that they can see detail from 20 feet that a person with “normal” vision can see from 600 feet, as tested by reading on a Snellen Eye Chart. For perspective, the average person has a visual acuity of 20/20 and the average person with moderate macular degeneration has 20/300 vision. Therefore, NuEyes offers great hope for people with a variety of vision conditions, including those who are considered legally blind.

How Electronic Smart Glasses Work

Inspired by visual drone technology used by the U.S. Navy, NuEyes smart glasses can brighten and magnify the user’s field of vision. Verbal commands can then be used to decrease or increase magnification and the glasses adjust to any user within milliseconds due to an autofocus camera.

NuEyes are powered by an internal battery and offer the user 1.5 hrs of uninterrupted use. In addition to this, a small, wireless battery pack – no larger than a smartphone – can be discreetly carried in the user’s pocket and magnetically connected to the glasses to provide an additional 10 hours of continuous use.

While connected to the battery pack, users can go about their usual day, leave home and live their life.

As far as assistive visual devices go, NuEyes is a game-changer for people living with vision loss. Rather than relying on a cumbersome magnifying glass that may only work in certain conditions at a relatively close range, NuEyes allows users to regain their independence and sight, even seeing the fine features and lines of their loved ones’ faces again.

Smart Glass Technologies Come With a Price Tag

Most new technologies come with a hefty price tag and electronic smart glasses are no different – NuEyes cost approximately $6,500 ($8,595 CAD). However after the initial purchase, there are no ongoing costs and according to an article published by Forbes, the company has “a major national insurance carrier that now covers up to 50% of the cost of the product, which makes it more affordable for the visually impaired.”

Rakshesh Patel, the Canadian Regional Support representative for NuEyes, explains that the biggest drawback of their smart glasses is the learning curve experienced by new users. As with any new technology, learning and understanding the device requires patience and takes time to adapt to.

That’s why NuEyes provides hours of initial training on how to use all of the functions of the glasses, including:

  • Ambient light sensors
  • Discreet text to speech recognition which allows the glasses to interpret small text and inform the user via magnetic headphones
  • Humidity sensors
  • Pressure sensors
  • Viewing pictures and videos
  • WiFi functionality that enables automatic updates from NuEyes, barcode scanning and internet browsing

In addition to training, NuEyes offers additional tech support that’s available at any time. So, whether you are tech savvy or not, if you’re legally blind or visually impaired, electronic smart glasses could offer you a new way of seeing.

With new technologies like electronic smart glasses, what do you think the future will hold for those with vision loss? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
Kimberley Fowler
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