07/14/2011 11:19 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Hi-Tech Bionic Glasses Could Help The Blind To See

Could special bionic glasses replace seeing eye dogs in the near future?

Possibly, as Oxford University researchers have developed glasses that use technology such as video cameras, face recognition, position detectors and tracking software to help people with impaired vision to see objects in front of them, The Telegraph reports.

"The glasses should allow people to be more independent -- finding their own directions and signposts, and spotting warning signals," Dr. Stephen Hicks, of the department of clinical neurology at Oxford University, told The Telegraph.

The technology is the same as that in smartphones and video games, and is meant for people who can see vague objects in front of them, but may not necessarily be able to make out finer detail, like the vision loss associated with macular degeneration or diabetes-induced retinopathy, Fast Company reported.

The glasses work like this: They have pinhead-sized cameras at the front to detect objects in front of the wearer, and an LED-light display built into the lenses to help with navigation and interaction. And, they hook up to a smartphone that provides the processing power.

The glasses could be ready for sale by 2014 if tests are successful, according to the Daily Mail.

This isn't the first technology that could give hope for people who have impaired version. Canadian companies are also developing glasses that use similar technology -- with cameras and LCD screens -- to help people with visual impairments to navigate better, CBCNews reported. And researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a microchip that can be implanted into the retinas to provide visual information to the brain, CNN reported.

The FDA also last year approved a miniature implantable eye telescope that can help people with age-related macular degeneration to better see fine detail, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Hearing aids have gotten high-tech, too. A hearing aid that transmits sound through the teeth was approved this year in both the United States and Europe. Called the SoundBite, it attaches to the upper right and left molars to communicate with a microphone in the ear.


Photo credit: Sonitus Medical