Finalist category: AbilityNet Accessibility Award
Accessibility Award, Finalist, 2018
GiveVision is using augmented reality and a virtual reality headset to help visually impaired people see better. The latest headset – SightPlus – works as an advanced digital magnifier and a pair of binoculars to help people with visual impairments live more independently.
Developing the next generation of low vision aids
Using a VR headset enables people to have their hands-free and drastically changes the way they can engage in an activity – imagine if you had to hold a monocular to watch a play for two hours, or hold a magnifier when you are looking for something in a drawer.
It also changes the way people interact with their surroundings as they can capture more visual information by simply adjusting the zoom, contrast or brightness.
The direct outcomes of enabling people to use their remaining sight are a significant reduction in the amount of assistance they would otherwise need, greater quality of life, reduced risk of depression, return to work and return to full inclusion in family life.
The team is now working on next prototypes which will use the same technology as SightPlus but pared down into the size of a more discreet hardware so people with sight impairments don’t feel labelled as disabled.
A solution for a growing issue
Today, an estimated 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. People who are registered partially sighted or blind will have to rely on assistive technologies.
The use of a smartphone with accessibility features or applications has increased but its user interface limits use cases. Moreover, according to people’ feedback, it appears to be more useful for them to have a dedicated magnifying device rather than dealing with a smartphone and draining its battery for one purpose.
GiveVision’s works with a pool of more than 1,000 people across the UK, taking a user-centric approach that involves testers at every step of the product development process.
People’ reactions when trying the goggles are amazing. It is not only the immediate impact on people’ sight that has been touching, it is also how their relatives and friends are empowered to support the use of their tech solutions. An interview on BBC Breakfast really demonstrated the impact the technology can have.