Oxford University
'Smart Glasses' that are expected to be a potential boon to the visually impaired, are being developed by Oxford University researchers.Brian Jeffery Beggerly via Creative Commons

Researchers at England's Oxford University have developed a prototype of a pair of affordable 'smart glasses,' that is expected to serve as a boon to people with severe visual imparity.

The prototype, which is currently under testing, is said to allow people with various degrees of visual imparities to see facial expressions of other people, and recognise surrounding objects.

These Smart Glasses are incorporated with specially-made lenses that magnify images of surrounding objects, people, plants and animals, with which users can easily identify objects or people, navigate through them and avoid running into those.

"The idea of the smart glasses is to give people with poor vision an aid that boosts their awareness of what's around them – allowing greater freedom, independence and confidence to get about, and a much improved quality of life", says Dr Stephen Hicks, lead researcher of Smart Glass from the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford.

According to Dr Stephen, Oxford University's smart glasses look and feel like regular glasses and would cost a few hundred pounds. This means that the visually challenged in the United Kingdom should be able to procure smart glasses for the price of a smartphone.

Can Smart Glasses Bring Back Lost Vision?

These glasses can only assist the visually impaired, not the totally blind. It enhances the images of surrounding objects and thereby, assists with spatial awareness

How Does it Function?

The glasses function with the help of a small video camera, which is mounted on top of its frame. A miniature programming unit (essentially a chip) is also built in. A software program renders images of surrounding objects and lets users identify those through the eyepieces of the glasses.

According to Oxford University researchers, the smart glasses would also come with transparent electronic displays, which would incorporate the customised lenses.

To Serve as an Alternative Eye

Smart glasses make use of the existing vision level in people to create enhanced images of objects or people in close proximity.

Researchers says that smart glasses can also be used by people with night blindness as these are expected to operate efficiently even in low light conditions.

When Will it Launch?

The glasses are currently under multiple testing processes. Once these are completed, the University of Oxford should make its 'smart glass' (tentative name) available for purchase.

Dr Stephen is currently studying how smart glass users adapt to various lighting conditions.

Researchers at Oxford University also tested the smart glass prototype on participants with varying vision, and determined that people could get adapted to the gadget fairly quickly.

Check out the video below to find out how people responded to 'Smart Glass'.