NuEyes Electronic Smart-Glasses, a life changer

Oh, the precious joy of seeing the face of a loved one!

Just a few years ago no-one would have believed that a legally blind person could be able to see the faces of their loved ones again. That a small piece of technology in the shape of a computerised pair of smart glasses could allow you to do this.

In the past, the point where surgery, spectacles or other optical aids gave a patient no improvement, generally meant the end of the line for many people’s visual enjoyment.

The hardest thing to do, says a respected retinal surgeon, is to tell a newly blind Px that there is nothing more that can be done to help them see again.

“Today there is hope”, says Sir Nicholas Rose, an optometrist who had to sell his practice after 37 years of optometry, when he lost his own eyesight in 2014.

“I was left with no vision in my LE and 20/400 in my RE. I sold my practice as I was unable to work. Not content or being prepared to accept a life on the couch, my family went on a world-wide search to find something to help me. We found NuEyes which we duly imported for my personal use. I was sceptical at first, yet thanks to NuEyes, my independence was restored.

I realised that NuEyes were too good to keep to myself and that I could be of service to other low vision patients who were stuck with various eye problems, believing that there was no hope!

I started seeing patients again and I would like to share what I have been experiencing with these NuEyes electronic, computerised smart glasses as they are enabling  many patients with macular, retinal degeneration and many other visual and Neuro problems to regain acuity and independence.”

Technology is constantly evolving and improving….
The first NuEyes device had been designed initially for the US Military. Six years of research and an astonishing R&D cost of > 60million US Dollars! NuEyes electronic spectacles were born when 2 military veterans realised that these augmented reality spectacles, which they had been using as soldiers in the field, could be adapted for low vision use.

Today, we’re looking forward to the launch of the next generation devices…better cameras…crisper displays… more storage… lighter weight. The future is truly here.

What is the secret? How do electronic devices “restore” vision?
Some of the answers are provided in a comprehensive research project conducted by scientists from Edinburgh University in Scotland. The topic of electronic computerised spectacles with image processing and visual enhancing algorithms for the legally blind, has fascinated quite a few different research groups. The Edinburgh study references and combines results from 37 stand-alone documented studies. The fact is that electronic visual enhancement can produce startling results.

The Edinburgh University paper cites SIX essential criteria that need to be manipulated to enhance and activate vision.
They are

  1. Illumination control of the electronic image. A constant and custom luminosity is key.
  2. Contrast adjustment. Colour saturation helps define objects and find edges more easily.
  3. Background inversion. The ability to change poorly contrasted letters on a similarly coloured background to white on black or black on white.
  4. Magnification of up to 18x gives greater clarity of small detail. With electronic screens of up to 101 degrees field of view, written sentences can be magnified and still have 3-4 words visible at the same time promoting more fluent reading.
  5. Autofocus. Being able to shift focus from far to near, to far, and having virtually instantaneous changes in focus provides the best opportunity for the patient to see clearly.
  6. Auto exposure adjusting to your subject matter without being over or underexposed prevents silhouette vision and provides a constant opportunity for precise vision.

My own research and experiences with over 50 patients, concurs with the Edinburgh study findings, with additional observations

  1. A correct optical prescription (supplementary spectacles that can be worn in conjunction with the device) remains essential and ensures that the electronically enhanced vision is at optimum focus.
  2. Therapeutic benefits must be tracked. An increasing number of Ophthalmologists are becoming interested in the idea that dormant macular cells can be stimulated and reactivated by the use of electronic devices. This activation of dormant cells through the manipulated electronic criteria, is supported by patients, regaining central vision and certain colour-blind patients regaining both central vision AND colour vision, whilst using the NuEyes. We remain in close contact with our patient’s treating ophthalmologists to track progress.
  3. There is NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL as patient’s visual and functional needs differ significantly. 
    • Electronic smart-glasses work best for patients who still have some residual vision:  aided or unaided acuities of 20/200-20/400
    • Some electronic head-worn devices are better suited for mobility than others.
    • Patients who rely on using peripheral vision often require and prefer a larger display area, whilst the patient with tunnel vision only, may prefer a small central sharp augmented picture.

It is therefore best to put the devices to the test to determine what works best. We generally find that patients need a 2-hour timeslot to give themselves a proper opportunity to try out the different devices and assess how it can fit into their lives. 

Contact information for Sir Nicholas Rose Optmetrist can be found on our Service Providers Page under Low Vision Rehabilitation https://www.retinasa.org.za/assistance/service-providers/

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