Smart specs for blind could soon replace white canes and dogs
New hi-tech glasses, designed to help prevent "legally blind" people with a tiny amount of vision from bumping into things, could replace white canes and guide dogs in two years, according to researchers.
The smart specs use tiny stereo cameras in the frames to project simplified images onto the lenses, which become brighter as an object moves closer, the Mirror reported.
Developer Dr Stephen Hicks, from Oxford University, said he hoped a finished model would be commercially available in around two years.
The cost is expected to be around 600 pounds while a guide dog costs up to 30,000 pounds to train.
From January next year the glasses will be tested in a series of trials involving 160 people with severely impaired sight in Oxford and London.
Dr Hicks said the spectacles were designed as a navigational aid, not to restore lost vision.
"The glasses work using a pair of cameras that determine the distance of objects and we simply translate that into a light display. This is not restoring sight, but we can improve spatial awareness," the Mirror quoted him as saying.
According to Dr Hicks, research has shown that fewer than half of people who are legally blind attempt to leave their homes on a daily basis.
"The aim is to increase the independence of the hundreds of thousands of people who are visually impaired in the UK," he added.
Technology built into the glasses could give them expanded functions, such as reading printed words out loud via an earpiece, or scanning barcodes to display the prices of shop items.
The research was funded through the National Institute for Health Research Invention for Innovation (i4i) programme.