The dictionary definition of the word “augment” is “to increase” or “make larger.”
So it stands to reason that “augmented reality” offers a larger, increased, and improved view of the world.
I’ve discussed this before when it comes to augmented reality in cars, but the technology is used in numerous other areas, including architecture, education, and sports.
It’s also being featured more often in the healthcare sector – and in keeping with the “increase” and “make larger” aspects, scientists at Oxford University are using augmented reality to boost the sight of visually impaired people.
Adding Some Depth (Perception) to Science
Neuroscience researcher, Stephen Hicks, is working on a new pair of smart glasses.
No… not the kind that Google (GOOGL) tried to bring to market. These ones are actually useful!
They use augmented reality and three-dimensional cameras to increase depth perception – and thus, help users see better.
They’re primarily used for people with serious visual impairments, and Hicks explains how the technology works: “When you go blind, you generally have some sight remaining – and using a combination of cameras and a see-through display, we’re able to enhance nearby objects to make them easier to see for obstacle avoidance and also facial recognition.”
The cameras and technology are able to detect the structure and position of nearby objects, with computer software then processing that information to highlight what’s relevant, while blocking out what isn’t.
Hicks continues, “We turn [the image] into a high-contrast cartoon that we then present on the inside of a see-through pair of glasses. We can then add the person’s normal vision to the enhanced view, and allow the person to use their remaining sight as they generally would do to see the world in a better way.”
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Hicks says what makes the glasses unique (and truly “smart”) is the addition of depth perception.
He’s not alone.
Indeed, early prototypes of the glasses have shown such promise that having won an award, the Oxford researchers have reeled in some big-time support. The team has partnered with a leading British charity for the blind, plus the U.K. government, in order to secure more research into improving the technology and also shrinking the size of the glasses themselves.
That’s not all, either. Just because its own smart glasses innovation failed, Google isn’t giving up on the area. The company is also helping to fund further research.
This is just one of many innovations helping visually impaired people. Check out our other articles on the topic – such as the OrCam smart glasses… the vibrating smart cane… the “electric” contact lens… and the Argus II bionic eye.