Smart spectacles use Kinect-like motion capture for bionic vision

Inspired by gaming software, Oxford researchers have developed glasses that use a tiny computer and LED lights to help the partially blind see.
Written by Janet Fang, Contributor

At the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, UK researchers unveiled the latest in inexpensive, non-invasive visual prosthetics research… inspired by Kinect for Xbox 360.

The new device – worn like a pair of glasses – uses software to understand what’s in front of the wearer and then uses LED lights to display the scene in simple patterns, allowing people with impaired vision ‘see’ again.

Developed by Oxford’s Stephen Hicks and his Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences team, the smart specs (pictured) consist of:

  1. A tiny camera mounted on the rim of the frame is connected to a small computer that uses basically the same components as a smartphone.
  2. Embedded in the glass lens are tiny LEDs that light up to represent objects and movements in the wearer’s visual field.

Using the camera, the software recognizes objects of interest and the LEDs display them in a way that’s simplified and bright enough so that a person with limited sight can distinguish nearby objects and scenes.

Hicks was inspired in part by Xbox Kinect, the camera-based, motion-sensing game controller.

Right now, brighter lights signal nearer objects. In addition to making the glasses look more like real glasses, future versions might use different colors to indicate different objects, such as people or road signs. And if the user turns their head, a gyroscope could indicate which direction they’re facing and a few seconds’ worth of memory will mean the system doesn’t have to recapture the data if they turn back quickly, speeding up the processing, The Engineer reports.

The researchers are currently running a 12-month study to develop and test the feasibility of the device for people with eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

“Most people who lose their sight do so through age or disease,” says Nuffield's Iain Wilson. “A lot of people can still see contrast, even if they can’t see their hand in front of their face.”

The prototype is displayed at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, which opened to the public today in London.

Image: Stephen Hicks

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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