SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Jeff Regan was born with underdeveloped optic nerves and had spent most of his life in a blur.
Then four years ago, he donned an unwieldy headset made by a Toronto company called eSight.
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.
“These glasses have made my life so much better,” said Regan, 48, a Canadian engineer who lives in London, Ontario.
The 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. That turns out to be all that some people with limited vision, even legal blindness, need to see things they never could before. That’s because many visual impairments degrade central vision while leaving peripheral vision largely intact.
Although eSight’s glasses won’t help people with total blindness, they could still be a huge deal for the millions of peoples whose vision is so impaired that it can’t be corrected with ordinary lenses.
But eSight still needs to clear a few minor hurdles. Among them: proving the glasses are safe and effective for the legally blind. While eSight’s headsets don’t require the approval of health regulators – they fall into the same low-risk category as dental floss – there’s not yet firm evidence of their benefits. The company is funding clinical trials to provide that proof.