Wearable technology comes in different forms. Some wearable devices are built into a visor, some are built into electronic spectacles and some have a clip-on camera that attaches to spectacles or a head strap.
Some of the visor style systems offer a wider field of view to people who have peripheral vision loss but most are not intended to be used while moving around. They are supposed to be taken off when moving and only put on while you are stationary, or while being guided or driven around in a vehicle by someone else. However, they can be used to find information about your surroundings – again, when stationary – to help you to make choices about where to go in a room or outdoor location.
These devices are not intended for use as mobility aids. In the list below only Cyber Eyez offers access to both talking and visual GPS navigation apps through being a full Android device. Even then, GPS is safest when used only with other mobility aids such as canes and guide dogs.
These wearable devices are mainly for magnifying text and objects and enhancing remaining useful vision. They can all enhance both distance and near vision. These technologies change all the time and some may introduce speech options in future.
This consists of a Samsung VR Gear visor headset and a Samsung smartphone with IrisVision software. It magnifies whatever you look at through the visor, whether distant or near, and the image is shown in front of your eyes. IrisVision has a very wide field of view and for some people this can compensate for peripheral, or patchy, vision loss.
The IrisVision headset magnifier is supplied in the UK by VisionAid Technologies and you can find out more on it on their website.
Price £2,895 (VAT relief available).
VisionAid Technologies also supply eSight, Orcam MyEye and NuEyes (see below) and can demonstrate all its devices to customers at home and at exhibitions.
This is a visor style headset with a very modern design. It’s light, and comfortable to wear for long periods. eSight 4 has 24x zoom and can connect to a TV, computer or a games console.
Price: £6,995 (VAT relief available).
OXSIGHT glasses can enhance remaining sight for individuals living with peripheral vision loss. The glasses are fitted with a camera that streams live video into two internal HD displays. By utilising the user’s remaining vision the glasses can potentially increase field of view to 68 degrees horizontally.
The OXSIGHT software, developed originally in Oxford University, features a range of modes that can help with edge, object, text and facial recognition.
The glasses help with conditions that result in a loss of visual field, such as Myopic Degeneration, Glaucoma, Retinitis Pigmentosa, Diabetic Retinopathy, Retinopathy of Prematurity and other degenerative eye diseases. The glasses have also helped people with a visual impairment as a result of a stroke, such as Homonymous Hemianopia.
The OXSIGHT smart glasses are designed for everyday wear.
Price: £1,499 ex VAT.
OXSIGHT regularly have discounts and offers. It’s best to phone them to check what the current price is by calling 01865 580255.
SightPlus is a headset that has been designed to enhance the vision of people with severe sight impairments. It combines the capabilities of a near-distance magnifier and long-distance telescope. It will help with stationary daily living activities such as watching TV, reading, following a play and working on screen-displays.
If you have sight conditions such as macular degeneration (AMD), Stargardt's, albinism or diabetic retinopathy and/or if you benefit from magnification tools in general, you could see an impact on your vision with the device.
If you want to try SightPlus, contact 01216 30 30 63 or sign up here.
Free testing sessions are available in London, Birmingham and with their partners (opticians, charities and low vision aids retailers) in other locations.
Here are links to a couple of videos of SightPlus in use:
The second type of wearable devices are dual purpose for magnifying and reading text using Optical Character Recognition to provide spoken information.
These look like large, thick rimmed, dark spectacles. They are voice controlled by giving commands to zoom in or zoom out on whatever the user wants to focus on. NuEyes Pro can magnify up to 12 times. It also has OCR and Wi-Fi allowing the user to stream TV and films directly to the glasses.
The UK supplier is VisionAid Technologies.
Price: £5,995 (VAT relief available).
The final type of wearable technology is purely a talking device and therefore aimed at people with very little or no useful vision.
This is a clip on spectacle mounted camera, similar to Cyber Eyez but with a more compact discreet design. It has a pen drive or lipstick-sized camera unit that attaches to one side of your own spectacles or to dummy spectacles. It is only used standalone and is designed primarily to read printed text aloud and to read labels and barcodes on products. It can also recognise faces once it has learned people's names. Orcam comes in two versions.
Cost: £3,500 ex VAT.
MyReader is a simpler version with the same hardware and fewer features (mainly text reading).
Cost: £2,700 ex VAT.
RNIB stock a selection of wearable devices. Click here to browse our range:
Vital Tech has guidance on smart glasses.
For more support or assistance getting set up, please contact RNIB’s Technology for Life team via our Sight Loss Advice Service on 0303 123 9999 or email [email protected].
Updated 15 March 2021