Smart glasses to aid blind receive financial backing

The smart glasses, which are produced in collaboration between the RNIB and the University of Oxford could be released onto the market by the end of the year

03 Feb 2015 by Ryan O'Hare

Smart glasses which have been designed to help blind and partially sighted people navigate their surroundings could become a commercial product by the end of the year following financial backing.

The project, which is a collaboration between the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the University of Oxford, is one of seven to be awarded up to £85,000 in funding through the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub.

The team which developed the high-tech, cost effective pair of smart glasses, which it believes will maximise the remaining vision of the wearer, is led by Oxford’s Dr Stephen Hicks

Dr Hicks and his team are currently working on refining their original prototype into a lightweight device which is expected to be sold online by the end of the year.
 
The funding should be spent over the next 12 months to exclusively develop “a spin-out business based on the innovations,” the Royal Academy has said.

Speaking about funding, Dr Hicks told OT: “My team and I have worked hard on our smart glasses and now we are at the crucial point of making the first commercially available version. 

“The Fellowship will give me the resources to build a strong business case for the glasses, and to develop the necessary industrial partners to make the glasses available for purchase within the next 12 months.”
 
The glasses work by detecting the three dimensional structure of nearby objects, highlighting the closest and most important objects, including obstacles, people and faces.

A 3D camera attached to the glasses captures images of a person’s environment and processes the information to identify shapes and objects nearby. 
 
Commenting on the grants, head of enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering, Arnoud Jullens, said: “Business-minded academics need investment and support from experienced industry practitioners to exploit their research, and the Enterprise Hub is in a unique position to make such connections. 

“As well as matching each Enterprise Fellow with a mentor, we also provide broader networking opportunities, such as access to the wider Fellowship and investors who partner with the Hub.”

Mr Jullens added: “We’ve already seen outstanding success from Enterprise Fellows of previous years and the Hub continues to introduce and expand its programmes to support entrepreneurial engineers as their businesses develop.”

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