Augmented Reality Glasses Provide New Aid for the Visually Impaired

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Augmented Reality and Optics

There are an estimated 285 million people worldwide registered as visually impaired: 39 million are blind while the remaining 246 possess low vision. The loss of one’s sight is extremely debilitating to day to day life, resulting in reliance on aids such as seeing-eye dogs or walking sticks. While these forms of aid are able to provide localization of surrounding objects, they are unable to provide a true sense of awareness for one’s environment.

Noticing how few assistive technologies were available for the visually impaired, Oxford-based company OxSight created the augmented reality powered Smart Specs. Studies show that almost 85% of people with visual impairment retain some variation of sight, whether it be through light, shadow, or shape detection. Oxsight’s Smart Specs utilize the degree of sight that patients have retained and amplifies it with AR technology.

Today’s AR technologies are able to quickly identify and differentiate object classes such as the floor, objects, and walls. The human brain processes our perception of our environment similar to modern AR cameras. Using this concept, OxSight’s Smart Specs enhance the way our brain already processes 3D environments by adding cartoon-like overlays to bring attention to certain object classes. Users can customize the overlay layer by adjusting colors, shadows, highlights, or by zooming in or out to fit their needs..

Unlike previous technologies for the visually impaired, the Smart Specs are able to operate without the requirement of components hooked to the brain or optical implants. Using a combination of technologies such as transparent displays, camera systems, sensors, and visual techniques designed for AR, the smart glasses are completely external and can be removed at any time.

Technology Utilized

  • Camera: a discrete camera attached to the right side of the smart glasses captures raw footage of what the user is seeing in real time.
  • Ultrasonic Distance Sensor: ultrasonic distance sensors are able to collect data on how far in proximity objects are from the user.
  • Digital Signal Processor: data from the camera and distance sensors are sent to the digital signal processor to create the final projected image. User customized adjustments made through the remote are also included for processing.
  • Transparent Display: a transparent display acts as the lens of the glasses. Upon processing, the final image is projected here to create the device’s image overlay effect for the user. As the display is transparent, the user’s eyes are still visible to the public.


OxSight’s Smart Specs returns the sense of awareness of one’s surroundings and provides a more interactive way to see the world. By enhancing sight and returning the ability to differentiate between foreground and background objects, users can confidently venture out on their own. Usage of the device is not disruptive to users day to day lives and feels familiar to wearing traditional glasses. Unlike devices from the past which resembled headgear or goggles, the device is able to give off an appearance similar to traditional glasses through its transparent lenses.

Prototype testers of OxSight’s Smart Specs felt that the device provided more confidence and freedom of movement. The most powerful outcome from early testers was the ability to see their loved one’s faces again – something many had thought they would never experience again. Users enjoyed how easily they could customize the glasses to fit their needs and how little impact the glasses had on their interactions.

As Smart Specs can be customized to fit a variety of visual impairment conditions, the device will be able to assist a wider majority of those needing optical assistive technologies than any other device prior. The device is also able to adapt to changing visual impairment without any additional hardware through its simple adjustment controls unlike implants and internally wired devices.

Stay tuned, OxSight’s Smart Specs are expected to launch late 2017.

Build Your Own With HWTrek Experts

Looking to create a device for the smart optics industry or one with similar component requirements? We recommend you get in touch with the following experts on the HWTrek Platform:

Image sensor and Digital Signal Processing Experts

  Megachips – Internationally renowned MegaChips is a fabless manufacturer of devices for the mobile and IoT industry. Their core technologies are critical to a wide range of applications for imaging, audio, communications, and more.
  Xacti – Japan’s leading digital camera OEM company, Xacti, offers both product development and manufacturing capabilities. Through years of working with top digital camera players, they are able to provide competitive procurement and supply chain management support as well as production engineering.
  PixArt Imaging Inc. – One of the lead global suppliers in Smart Sensor SoC solutions incorporating CMOS Imager, optics, and proprietary algorithm engines, PixArt Imaging Inc. offers a broad selection of sensors and technologies to support today’s complex human-machine interface designs.


Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Experts

  Goertek – Currently possessing the largest market value among acoustic companies on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, Goertek’s main focuses consist of R&D, production, and sales of electro-acoustic components, optical components, electronic accessories, and related products.
  Thundersoft – The professional total solution company for IoT products including drone, VR, cameras, and robots, Thundersoft provides both HW/SW/ME/Operation Systems and Manufacturing services.
  IRL Electronics Company – One of the fastest developing, high-tech, eco-friendly manufacturers and exporters of mobile and wearable electronics, IRL Electronics Company offers mold development, high-speed automatic SMT machines, plastic injection machines, thermo-humidity test equipment, anti-dust insulated workshops, as well as fully and partially automated assembly lines.


Written By

Digital Marketing Specialist at HWTrek.