Thanks to a startup called VA-ST and the neuroscience researcher Stephen Hicks, Augmented Reality will become the technology through which legally blind will be able to see again.

Day after day, month after month, we are getting used to the fact that in the future Augmented and Virtual Reality headsets will be very common: they will help us see reality in a pretty enhanced way, with more information and possibility to interact; but what about those who can’t see? It would seem impossible for them to use this new technology, but we are wrong and a pair of smart glasses called Smart Specs demonstrates it.

How will Smart Specs work?

Often people who are defined as legally blind still have some kind of vision, just not good enough to pick out any obstacles or faces. Thanks to this Augmented Reality headset they’ll be able to use fully their remaining sight, since it will help them with an enhancement of depth perception.

As Stephen Hicks declared: “We turn [the image] into a high-contrast cartoon that we then present on the inside of a see-through pair of glasses. We can then add the person’s normal vision to the enhanced view, and allow the person to use their remaining sight as they generally would do to see the world in a better way.”

The Smart Specs use three-dimensional cameras and detect the structure and position of nearby objects and through Augmented Reality they put them in the real world. This will make possible for legally blind to avoid obstacles and actually see what’s around them. People suffering from cloudy vision, patches of lost sight in the centre, tunnel vision or night blindness might get help from this project.

At the moment Smart Specs are just a prototype: they feature, inside a plastic headset, a pair of Epson Moverio augmented-reality glasses as display and an Asus component to analyze depth, and they have to be strapped to the head of the person, who has to carry also a box to change the settings. This is, of course, just the first version of the headset, that is meant to be available soon in the cunsomer version at about $1000.