“Suddenly, Regan could read a newspaper while eating breakfast and make out the faces of his co-workers from across the room. He’s been able to attend plays and watch what’s happening on stage, without having to guess why people around him were laughing.”
Recently developed headsets from eSight transmit images from a forward-facing camera to small internal screens — one for each eye — in a way that beams the video into the wearer’s peripheral vision. Basically, most visual impairments degrade central vision while leaving peripheral vision largely intact so these headsets have proven to be very helpful. These headset glasses are safe and effective for the legally blind but have some obstacles they have to overcome. First off, these glasses have been classified in the health low-risk category. Also, these headsets do not come cheap. A pair of eSight headset glasses cost about $10,000 and insurers will not cover the cost as they consider the glasses an “assistive” technology similar to hearing aids. The latest version of eSight’s technology, built with investments of $32 million over the past decade, is a gadget that vaguely resembles the visor worn by the blind “Star Trek” character Geordi La Forge , played by LeVar Burton. So far, though, the company has sold only about 1,000 headsets, despite the testimonials of wearers who have become true believers. eSight believes that about 200 million people worldwide with visual acuity of 20/70 to 20/1200 could be potential candidates for its glasses. That number includes people with a variety of disabling eye conditions such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, ocular albinism, Stargardt’s disease, or optic nerve hypoplasia. Samuel Markowitz, a University of Toronto professor of ophthalmology, says that eSight’s glasses are the most versatile option for the legally blind currently available, as they can improve vision at near and far distances, plus everything in between. Although eSight’s glasses won’t help people with total blindness, they could still be a huge deal for the millions of people whose vision is so impaired that it can’t be corrected with ordinary lenses.