Sight enhancement for people with low vision reaches Tech4Good finals

New technologies for people with sight loss and those who are blind are a key theme in the finals of the AbilityNet Tech4Good Accessibility Award this year.

Four out of five finalists are using tech to offer people with sight loss more understanding of the visual world. GiveVision has developed what it calls ‘the next generation of low vision aids’.  Its first prototype - SightPlus - currently works as an advanced digital magnifier and a pair of binoculars, giving people with low vision the ability to see much more of their surroundings and in greater detail. In the video below, you'll hear from Libby Powell, Paralympian, on her experiences with the aid. 

The technology, which combines augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets, has taken GiveVision - a company of software engineers, researchers and social entrepreneurs - to the finals of the 8th AbilityNet Tech4Good Accessibility Award. The awards are supported by BT and celebrate some of the amazing people who use tech to help make the world a better place.

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet, comments: “GiveVision takes the best of image enhancement technology and uses it to address the challenges faced by the many millions of people with a vision impairment worldwide.”

Over the last four years, the company has worked with hundreds of tester to refine and develop the vision aid. It says the most commonly sold sight aids are handheld magnifiers, which have limited fields of view and functionalities compared to SightPlus.

A spokesperson for GiveVision told AbilityNet: “The device enables testers to have their hands free, which drastically changes the way they can engage in an activity. For instance, imagine having to hold a monocular to watch a play for two hours. With the technology, users can also capture more visual information by adjusting the zoom, contrast or brightness."

Second incarnation is similar shape to glasses

The second incarnation of the product (shown below), currently due out next year is a more discreet option (note: launch date has moved to 2020 since this article was originally posted). It will use the same technology but be smaller and more slimline, similar to a pair of glasses.

Sight Plus mark 2 slimline glasses

The company is excited to be now embarking on a study with Moorfields Eye Hospital to test its device further. 

The importance of assistive technology

On the growing need for assistive technologies for people with sight loss, GiveVision explained: “Today an estimated 246 million (updated from 217 million) have moderate or severe sight impairments, and this number is predicted to double in the next three decades.

"The issue with sight conditions, such as Macular Degeneration or Diabetic Retinopathy is that there is no cure, or there is a limited treatment that can slow down the progression of a disease but doesn't restore the vision. Patients who are registered partially sighted or blind will have to rely on assistive technologies.

“While the use of a smartphone with accessibility features or applications has increased, our research and testing shows it’s more useful and desirable for some people, particularly older generations, to have a dedicated magnifying device,” they added.