New eGlasses can improve vision for many who are legally blind

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Monday, 29 May 2017 14:29pm

Canadian company eSight creates futuristic glasses that use images from a forward-facing camera to overcome vision loss, even for many people who are legally blind. The makers claim that their latest variant, the eSight 3 augmented reality headset, is a real wearable breakthrough for those people living with vision loss.

eSight 3 electronic glasses

eSight 3 electronic glasses

The launch of this advanced new wearable was reported in the Toronto Star by Michael Liedtke of Associated Press in February 2017 and by VOA News reporter Kevin Enochs in May 2017 with a feature on the latest eSight glasses.

The eSight electronic glasses were originally created by the company’s founder, Conrad Lewis, who has two sisters who are legally blind. Mr Lewis, an engineer, decided to use his skills to help his siblings see, and quite a few years later, his dream has become reality.

It works by having a high-speed, high-resolution camera set in the middle of the glasses which captures video images of whatever is before it. The computer in the glasses immediately processes the video and shows it on two screens in front of the user’s eyes in a way that beams the video into the wearer’s peripheral vision. This provides some people with limited vision, even legal blindness, the ability to see things they usually can’t, because many visual impairments degrade central vision while leaving peripheral vision largely intact.

The new eSight 3 headset is like a cross between a pair of everyday sunglasses and a set of virtual reality goggles. They’re big, but not overly huge, and are surprisingly light to wear.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the eSight 3 augmented reality headset for sale in the USA, yet clearly states that not all vision impaired or legally blind people will benefit from wearing them. However, some of the early adopters with significant vision loss, have reported excellent results by using eSight glasses, including Julissa Marquez, who says the investment was worth it.

Marquez lost most of her eyesight from a stabbing attack in 2013. After more than ten operations she was left with 30% vision in one eye and no sight in the other. Yet through the eSight glasses, she says her vision is now “amazing.”

eSight claims that their eSight 3 will work for over 85% of people who are legally blind or have low vision. Yet the headsets carry a high price tag. Even though the eSight 3 costs $5,000 US less than its predecessor, it will still set you back $10,000 US for a pair. That’s because insurers in the USA and Canada won’t cover the cost of purchase, as they consider the glasses an Assistive Technology device that is not covered by mandatory guidelines.

eSight is in the midst of trying to change that, by funding clinical trials to provide more robust proof of benefit, in order to get insurance coverage, and thus significantly lower the price. The data from this trial is expected to be published later in 2017.

At present, eSight 3 eglasses are not available to buy within Australia, which means it is a costly proposition for Aussies to purchase them from Canada or the US, and without having local after-sales support here. We’ll keep you posted when local distribution commences, and if the purchase price drops as a result of health insurance coverage being granted.

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