Smartglasses from eSight are changing blind people’s lives by enabling them to see

Every once in a while, we see technology that is unlikely to actually be experienced by most people, but is truly transformative and life-changing for select people. That perfectly describes eSight, a pair of smartglasses that give blind people the ability to see. That’s amazing enough, but the glasses — which look like a cross between PlayStation VR and the Avegant Glyph — are so effective that in some cases the previously blind person may have the best sight in the room when wearing them.

We met Rosa Henderson, who is legally blind and has been since birth, at CES 2018. She has been wearing eSight for several months, and her story is one that shows the human side of cutting-edge modern tech. She didn’t talk about how something helped her productivity, or solved a very specific problem, but about something that lets her live. She said eSight gives her control over everyday life, confidence, and independence like no other device before it. It enables her to do the everyday things most people take for granted.

High-tech vision

An example? Henderson talked about attending classes at college, where she would normally have to make special arrangements ahead of time to sit at the very front of the room, and often bring an assistant along to help with dictation and note-taking. That’s after making the journey to the college in the first place, which may have involved the help of other people, using a cane, or owning a service animal — and always required considerable planning. Not impossible, but hugely restrictive, and very reliant on others. It’s hard for sighted people to understand how difficult all this is. Imagine performing your everyday routine with your eyes closed, and it’s probably pretty similar.

Henderson explained that without eSight, she sees nothing long distance, and couldn’t make out my facial features at all when I was sat less than a meter away. Yet with eSight on, not only could she see what I looked like, but she attends those classes without making any prior arrangements, travels safely on her own, and works in the class on her own anywhere she likes.

The classroom experience is a microcosm of real life. Reading signs, being able to see long distances, crossing roads, recognizing people, and even using an Apple Watch is is now possible for Henderson and other eSight wearers. To hear her describe the difference it has made to her life is extremely uplifting.

It’s not the first assistive device she has used, having had experience with everything from a cane to a massive magnification machine that resembled an old microfiche reader and allowed her to view documents.  While these often assisted with a single task, none were very convenient, and some didn’t even work well at all.

Everything is solved with eSight, because it enables the wearer to actually see.

Better than 20/20

The eSight is a visor-like device worn on the head, with a pair of corrective glasses built in if they’re needed. A high-speed camera views the world around the wearer, projecting the image onto a pair of OLED screens, where special software enhances and cleans up the image. There’s no lag, the images produced don’t have a digital appearance, and because the visor can be lowered and lifted, peripheral vision isn’t ruined. It’s arguably the true definition of augmented reality.

A high-speed camera views the world around the wearer, projecting the image onto a pair of OLED screens, where special software enhances and cleans up the image.

How much does it change vision? Incredibly, Henderson has the equivalent of 20/20 sight using it. A zoom feature, which is controlled with a linked handset, means she may see further and often with more clarity than sighted people. There’s even an HDMI port to plug in a media device, so the headset acts like a virtual reality display for watching TV and movies. The whole thing is easy to put on, adjust, and take off, thanks to a clever system of magnets. Henderson admits the device could be lighter, but that’s something to work on for the next version.

Unfortunately, eSight costs $10,000, which makes it prohibitively expensive. However, the passion and commitment shown not just by Henderson, but also by Jeff Fenton, eSight’s Director of Outreach, is infectious. To help get eSight into the hands of people who need it, the company offers a financing plan, plus a way to donate and contribute to a worthy cause — making blindness a thing of the past by 2020. We may get all excited over the latest phone, wearable, or game console, but millions of people could experience the same level of freedom and independence as Henderson does by using eSight, and that puts it on a different level.

Product Review

The iPad Pro is the best tablet ever. But don't sell your laptop just yet

Apple has unveiled a big redesign for the iPad Pro, slimming down the bezels, adding Face ID, and the ability to attach and charge the Apple Pencil. All of this comes at a high cost however, as the iPad Pro starts at $799.
Emerging Tech

Quantum-based accelerometer can locate objects without GPS

Researchers have created a quantum "compass" that allows navigation without satellites. The instrument, technically called a standalone quantum accelerometer, is small enough to be transportable and has a very high level of accuracy.
Movies & TV

Cassian Andor series and 'Mandalorian' details expand Star Wars' future

Disney has sky-high expectations for its Star Wars universe, with plenty of plans for the franchise on the big screen and television over the next few years. Here are all the upcoming movies and TV shows, both rumored and confirmed.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.

Fitbit's latest update brings 'Quick Replies' feature to the Charge 3

Back in August, Fitbit confirmed its new wearable -- the Fitbit Charge 3. The new fitness tracker features a touchscreen OLED display, smartwatch capabilities, enhanced fitness features and more. Here's everything you need to know about it.

The Michael Kors Access Runway smartwatch will soon be available in ceramic

Michael Kors has brought back the Access Runway name it last used in 2016, and this time attached it to a Wear OS smartwatch, complete with new tech, and a cool way of customizing the watch face, too.

Wearable in Google patent will shake, bake, and shine to signal notifications

A new Google patent suggests that Google may be working on getting into the wearable game after all. The patent describes a wearable device that can vibrate, light up, and pulse when notifications arrive.

Here's a look at what's inside Fossil's Pop-up Shop in New York

Fossil has released its first-ever smartwatch featuring Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 3100. The Fossil Sport comes packed with a heart rate monitor, built-in GPS, NFC, and Google's latest version of Wear OS. Here's everything you need to know.

Hublot’s newest luxury watch costs $25,000, and you can only pay in Bitcoin

The Hublot Big Bang Meca-10 P2P is the latest luxury timepiece from the watch brand, and is a special limited edition made to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Bitcoin. Eager buyers must use the cryptocurrency to buy one.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…

The best Apple Watch deals for November 2018

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for November 2018

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

The world’s first smartglasses showrooms open in Brooklyn and Toronto

Canadian startup North is hoping smartglasses will be the next big wearable. After announcing its new Focals smartglasses in October, the company opened product showrooms in Brooklyn and Toronto.