Low vision is a condition in which people are visually impaired for some reason and are inconvenienced in daily life, such as difficult to see, dazzling, and difficult to walk because the visible range is narrow.

History of Glasses

The inventor of the first spectacle lenses is unknown. Roman tragedian Seneca (4 BC -65AD) is said to have used a glass globe of water as a magnifier to read ''all the books of Rome''. It's been reported that monks in the middle ages used glass spheres as magnifying glasses to read.

The 13th century Venetians glass blowers are known to have produced reading stones made of solid glass that was put into hand-held, single lens-type frames made of horn or wood. These reading stones were similar to hand-held magnifying lenses of today.

Most historians believe that the first form of eyeglasses was produced in Italy by monks or craftsmen in Pisa (or perhaps Venice) around 1285-1289. These magnifying lenses for reading were shaped like two small magnifying glasses and set into bone, metal, or leather mountings that could be balanced on the bridge of nose.

The first known artistic representation of the use of eyeglasses was Tommaso da Modena's painting of renowned biblical scholar Hugh of Saint-Cher in 1352

Glasses and Magnifiers

While totally (or legally) blind persons need a variety of assistive devices like Braille Reader and Writers, Readers and Writers for Tactile Graphics, and Travel and Orientation Aids for Mobility; partially visually impaired (low vision - including but not limited to: SVI, MVI, EVI, MSVI and VI) persons can benefit from a range of Low Vision Aids to improve their functional visual acuity based on the tasks they need to perform. These include Screen Magnifiers and Readers for Text, Glasses, Magnifiers, and the like. In this page we discuss various low vision devices including glasses and magnifier.

What Are Low Vision Devices?

Low vision devices can help one make the most of the vision so that he / she can perform everyday tasks more easily and with less frustration. Some devices, such as optical and non-optical aids, offer very simple and relatively inexpensive solutions. Other devices, such as electronic and digital magnifiers, may be slightly more complex and costly. However, both optical devices and electronic or digital devices require training to use them efficiently and effectively. Training is always one of the main keys to success with the use of low vision devices.

Low vision devices are task-specific, designed for close-up visual tasks or distance viewing. One may require several different devices to accomplish different tasks, depending upon the eye condition and everyday living needs.

Low Vision Optical Devices

Low vision optical devices include a variety of helpful visual aids, including stand and hand-held magnifiers, strong magnifying reading glasses, loupes, and small telescopes. Because these devices can provide greatly increased magnification powers and prescription strengths, along with higher-quality optics (i.e., the way the lens bends or refracts light), they are different from regular glasses and magnifiers that you can buy in a local store or online. Most often they require training to help you use them effectively.

Low Vision Non-Optical Devices

Low vision non-optical devices can include adaptations such as reading stands, supplemental lighting, absorptive (or glare control) sunglasses, typoscopes, and tactile locator dots. They can be used in combination with low vision optical devices and can help with reading, organizing, labeling, and a variety of everyday tasks.

Electronic Magnifying Systems

Electronic magnifying systems come in many different varieties and sizes, depending upon the task or activity you want, or need, to do. Some have a camera system that displays a magnified image on a monitor, which can be helpful for reading mail, books, and magazines, while others are hand-held, portable, and can be taken to the supermarket to read labels and coupons, or to restaurants for reading menus.

Source: Overview of Low Vision Devices


Painting is a blind man’s profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen. – Pablo Picasso

About the Page

Vision aids are critical support for people with low or no vision. Going beyond the typical glasses, contacts, and magnifying lens; several options are available today. These are discussed under:

  • Smart Glasses: Smartness is being added in various ways as can be found for a few Leading Smart Glasses in the market

  • Magnifiers: Both Electro-mechanical as well as Digital Magnifiers, as available in the market, are reviewed.

  • Innovations: The space of low vision aids is bubbling with exciting innovations including Direct Retinal Projection, Visual prostheses, Artificial Vision for the Blind, and Apple Glasses.

Smart Glasses

For centuries, the primary purpose of eyeglasses has been to improve our vision to 20/20. But now as the year 2020 arrives, eyeglass makers and internet pioneers are joining forces to make our one-trick-pony glasses smarter as well.

Smart Glasses bring the wireless connectivity and imaging we enjoy on our home computers and cellphones into the frames and lenses of our eyewear.

Google Glass paves the way

Google was first to launch this new vision of eyewear in 2013 with the introduction of Google Glass Explorer. Unfortunately, the it proved too geeky, uncomfortable and expensive ($1,500), prompting Google to yank it from the market after 18 months.

Google Glass, however, proved a worthy smart glasses archetype that other tech players would soon refine. Google Glass slipped the smarts into smart glasses as:

  • Sound: The speaker for wireless audio inputs and cellphone reception rests on the end of the ear rest(s). Audio is transferred to the ear via bone conduction instead of air conduction through the audio canal.

  • Mic and Speaker: Of the smartphone kind

  • Projector and Prism: Offers partially transparent digital displays without obscuring the real-world view. The digital overlay of text and images within our field of view is the key that unlocks the smart glasses experience.

  • Camera: The camera lens at the temple of the Google Glasses brought privacy concerns. A few, like Focals by North and Vue, now offer camera-less models.

Powered by touch, speech or thoughts

Instead of the keyboard and mouse we’re all used to, we can control smart glasses by

  • touching

  • tapping or swiping controls built into the frame

  • verbalizing our requests as we do to Alexa and Siri, and/or

  • directing its displays through our phone or wearable devices such as Focals by North’s hand ring

  • gesture recognition of head, eye and hand movements such as nodding or looking up or down,

  • directing via eye tracking and even controlling our glasses with our thoughts

Source: Smart glasses: How they work and what’s next: All About Vision

Smart Glasses for the Blind and the Visually Impaired

While Google Glasses led the development of Smart Glasses, it does not provide specific support for the blind or the visually impaired. However, driven by the wave of development, several electronic smart glasses have been built in the last decade that can assist in a variety of tasks:

  • Navigation,

  • Reading,

  • Communication

  • Object recognition

  • Face recognition and the like.

Further reading:

Leading Smart Glasses

The Smart Glasses to note are:

  • IrisVision, Acesight, NuEyes, OrCam, eSight, Aira, Envision, and VL Eye Glasses (India) are some of the leading solutions (products and services) with varied features and options.

  • Several novel solutions, based on technological breakthroughs are under prototyping too - QD Laser (Direct Retinal Projection), Bionic Eye (Visual Prosthesis / Implant), Orion (Visual Cortical Prosthesis / Implant) and Apple Glasses are to name a few. They are expected to be available within a couple of years. We have details in Innovations section.

Google Glass

Google Glass is a smart glass - an optical head-mounted display designed in the shape of a pair of glasses. It was developed by X with the mission of producing a ubiquitous computer. Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like, hands-free format. Wearers communicate with the Internet via natural language voice commands.

Google started selling Glass Explorers in the US in 2013, for a limited period for $1,500, before it became available to the public a year later. It received a lot of criticism amid concerns that its use could violate existing privacy laws.

Google announced the Google Glass Enterprise Edition in 2017 and Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 in 2019.

IrisVision

These electronic glasses for the blind and visually impaired are a highly innovative assistive technology solution, which is registered with the FDA as a Class-1 medical device and is redefining the concept of wearable low vision aids. A combination of a Samsung’s VR headset and a smartphone, IrisVision gives birth to an innovative solution aimed at helping people with eye problems.

What is Iris Vision?

In this collaboration video between Iris Vision and The Blind Life, we discuss what the Iris Vision is and who it is designed for. We take a look at the features and discuss situations in which you might use them.

James was diagnosed with a low-vision condition called optic nerve atrophy at the age of 3. Watch the heart-warming story on how IrisVision impacted James' life by not only letting him see clearly for the first time in his life, but letting him do more, live more independently, and connect with the world.

Acesight

It is one of the latest wearable low vision aids produced by Zoomax, designed to help people with low vision conditions. Based on ‘Augmented Reality’ technology, it offers an HD display floating right before your eyes, thanks to a pair of head-mounted goggles, which are connected to a controller through a wire. Provides up to 15X magnification, while the wired controller allows you to customize the colors and contrast.

Dr. Ed Paul Talking About Acesight

All of a sudden, what happens is Jack looks like he’s on a 50" TV screen right in front of me

This electronic eyewear is designed to cater to the needs of people with visual acuity ranging from 20/100 to 20/800, as affected by a host of eye diseases like macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

NuEyes Pro

It is a head-worn lightweight and wireless pair of smart glasses, which can be controlled either through a wireless handheld controller or a set of voice commands. It is designed to help visually impaired and legally blind see better. Glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy are some of the visual conditions NuEyes Pro can help you with. A camera on the front of the glasses captures the image and displays it magnified inside of the lenses. You can get up to 12X magnified images. There are various other features, which make these e-glasses more than just a pair of electronic reading glasses.

Wearable technology is the future and NuEyes Smartglasses bring the future to you in a small, compact yet powerful head worn device.

NuEyes finally makes it possible for those with visual impairments to connect with loved ones and others without always having to use a big clunky machine. Our removable visual prosthetic helps the visually impaired see again while keeping their hands free.

NuEyes help in a variety vision problems

NuEyes Review - The Blind Life

Review of the NuEyes Low Vision System!

OrCam MyEye

OrCam MyEye is a voice activated device that attaches to virtually any glasses. It can instantly read text from a book, smartphone screen or any other surface, recognize faces, help shop on your own, lead independent life!

OrCam MyEye conveys visual information audibly, in real-time and offline. It is used in over 50 countries in 25+ languages.

OrCam MyEye is not for mobility, but it can greatly improve the mobility experience by identifying objects, people and reading signs around.

eSight

eSight moves seamlessly with wearers through daily life offering great visual acuity - sitting reading, commuting to work, or exploring a place.

eSight is used daily by people with over 20 different eye conditions. A typical eSight user has natural visual acuity of 20/60 to 20/800 but some have up to 20/1400. Many achieve 20/20 acuity with eSight.

eSight captures high-quality video, and displays it on two high-resolution OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) screens, directly in front of each eye. Footage is enhanced by custom optics and proprietary algorithms to maximize functional sight. The result? Synaptic activity from the remaining photoreceptor function in the user’s eyes is stimulated to provide the brain with increased visual information to naturally compensate for gaps in the users’ field of view.

Simplify Social Distancing with Aira

AIRA are smart glasses that also use a camera and connectivity to bring assistance to people with a visual impairment. In this case, however, what you're connected to is a trained assistant who provides spoken feedback about what you are looking at. Useful for help with identifying objects, reading documents, menus or medication. These offer a pair of eyes to guide you through unfamiliar routes or indoor surroundings or perhaps to provide some crucial fashion advice!

Starbucks Launches Aira Access For All U.S. Stores, 2021

Envision Glasses

Envision Glasses is a wearable device that significantly improves the daily life of blind and visually impaired people. It provides the most intuitive and easiest way to access all kinds of visual information around them. It's trained to recognize and speak out text, objects, people, colors, products and so much more. The Envision Glasses are designed to be worn all day with its comfortable, lightweight profile.

The Envision Glasses are a combination of the Google Glass 2 and Envision's award-winning AI technology. The technology, currently available on iOS and Android smartphones, already enables you and thousands of other users around the world to read all kinds of information. Like the app, the glasses use artificial intelligence to understand the world around you and speak the visual information back to you. Its features include - Instant Text, Scan Text, Handwritten Text, Describe Scene, Detect Colors, Find Person, Find Objects, Explore, and Video Call

VL Eye Glasses help blind persons move around freely using LiFi Tech! It’s a path-breaking, innovative eyeglasses, conceptualized, researched and designed by RDL Visible Light Communication and Research Centre at Sahyadri Innovation Hub at Sahyadri Engineering College, Mangaluru. It helps the visually impaired to enable the visually impaired / blind person to move around freely within indoor environments like home or office or any unfamiliar spaces, with freedom and without facing any obstacles. This medical breakthrough allows the visually impaired to see the faces of loved ones, read, work, study, and participate in virtually any Activity of Daily Living indoor.

Refer to Innovations in Orientation and Mobility.