"Smart glasses" providing a new set of eyes for the visually impaired are being tested in public for the first time.
The devices enhance a partially sighted patient's residual vision with a pair of video cameras to deliver a sense of depth helping users prevent collision with objects such as lamp posts or tripping over steps.
The glasses are undergoing trials by 30 visually impaired volunteers at testing venues in Oxford and Cambridge, where they would navigate through specially constructed obstacle courses, while the devices are also being tried out by some in public by mingling with shoppers and tourists in the middle of Oxford.
Dr Stephen Hicks, of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Oxford University, who led development of the glasses, said the idea of the smart glasses was to give people with poor vision an aid that boosted their awareness of what was around them – allowing greater freedom, independence and confidence to get about, and a much improved quality of life, Engineering & Technology Magazine (E&T) reported.
He added, the researchers eventually wanted to have a product that would look like a regular pair of glasses and cost no more than a few hundred pounds – about the same as a smart phone.
The glasses had the potential to transform the lives of thousands of registered blind people in the UK.
The video cameras mounted in a headset, a pocket-sized computer processor, and software that projected images of close-by objects onto displays in the see-through eye pieces.
In certain cases, details such as facial features could become easier to see.
Of the over 300,000 severely sight impaired people in the UK, it was believed about a third could benefit from the technology.
In tests conducted last year on an earlier version of the glasses, 20 volunteers with a range of eye conditions and levels of vision took part in preliminary tests.