eSight, an augmented reality headset which allows visually impaired people to see

Posted by aalvarez on November 13, 2017


Most of the time we take for granted that everyone is able to see as we see, to hear as we hear, to use their hands as we do. However, the reality is different sometimes. Not all people are able to do the things as everyone does. As a computer scientist, I believe that we need to build technology accessible for everyone and not only accessible but actually technology which is aimed to enhance the quality of life of those who have different capabilities. Nowadays, there are a bunch of new companies and associations which are joining their efforts in order to build technology for social good. This is the case of eSight.

Video from Associated Optical

What is it?

eSight is basically an electronic glass that allows the visually impaired to see. It uses a high-speed, high-resolution camera that captures everything the user is looking at in real time. Then, a set of algorithms are applied to the captured video so it is enhanced and displayed on two OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) screens in front of the user’s eyes thanks to a head mounted set. This technology helps legally blind people to see again leveraging the strengths of video streaming and immersiveness. We can say that eSight is an actual augmented reality headset.

eSight headset and controller. Source: Artefact group

Inside eSight

eSight is composed by a headset connected to a controller throughout a wire. This controller allows the wearer to customize zoom, contrast and color settings. The headset is composed by a high resolution camera on the front side and on the inside there are a couple of video screens which the user will look into at. First, the video is streamed in real time to the controller. Then, applying advanced algorithms and the user predefined settings the video is boosted so people with low vision can see it clearly with no perceptible latency or delay. The enhanced video signal is then transmitted back to the headset and displayed on the OLED small screens where the video is focused automatically. Once the wearer sees the video on the screens the controller can be used to adjust the settings. The controller is very similar to a TV remote with some buttons on the front, some dials on the side and a touch sensitive directional button which is really useful when changing settings on the menu. With those buttons the users can change the background and font colors of a piece of text they are reading and can adjust the contrast, the focus and the brightness so the text is more readable and objects more identifiable. Additionally, they can zoom in or zoom out. This magnification option allows the video to be enlarged up to 24 times its original size. Besides, the wearer can also take a photo or record a video and save what he or she is looking at a specific moment.

Overview of how eSight works

What does make eSight unique?

According to eSight Corporation and the World Health Organization, the number of people who are sightless is up to 285 milion. The eSight headset cannot help people who are totally blind which represent 15% of this sightless population. However, this eyewear could give back sight to the remaining 85% and the good new is that they would not need surgery. Different from other devices or technologies aimed to help people with visual impairements, eSight can provide them sight instantaneously. From the moment a person puts this headset on, he or she can see. This is a good demonstration of how augmented reality and immersion can be used to bring the human being welfare to the next level.

Zooming functionality of eSight

Contrast adjustment using eSight controller

Color combination approach to enhance readability

After having researched about eSight, I come up with a sort of possitive and negative aspects of this technology. As with every innovative solution, there is always something to improve the next release. Nevertheless, I would say that eSight has more things to praise rather than to critisize.


Among the useful aspects of eSigh it can be highlighted its hand-free design. The device provides the user the possibility of performing actions with their hands while the head mounted display is put on. Even if there is a controller, it is really portable and can be easily carried in a pocket of a jean. Actually, the manufacturer offers various carrying option to ensure eSight is used hands-free. Moreover, as the video streaming settings can be previously configured, the controler then can be used only on demand. In addition to this, the head mounted display is appreciably lightweight, contributing to the portability and usability of this tech.

Another good feature of this eyewear is that the system can talk to the user. This kind of text-to-speech characteristic is really useful for feedback. For example, when the users are adjusting the values of the contrast, the brightess or the zoom, a voice system will tell them what are the current values so they can change those if necessary. Furthermore, this gadget's component becomes very convenient in the menu system according to Sam in his review of eSight system.

A child wearing eSight and walking in Times Square

One particularity of this product and that makes it different is the patented Bioptic Tilt capability. This attribute of eSight permits the user to adjust the eyewear to an optimum position offering a better view-point of the augmented video. Hence, it aids the user to have free mobility without usual problems like nauseas or imbalance caused by some other existing immersive technologies.

Ultimately, but equally important is the aforementioned auto-focus capability. This characteristic allows the glasses to adjust the focus automatically when the vision range changes. This means that the focal point will be adpated smoothly between the short-range vision like reading a newspaper or sending a message trhough a smartphone, the mid-range vision like looking at a person's face or watching at a large screen, and long-vision like looking at a landscape far away or at the end of a corridor. This property is really significant by virtue of providing the visually impaired the opportunity to see as an actual sighted person would see.

This is what users see through eSight. Snapshots from this video


Even though I consider eSight a wonderful invention, the device is still in the process of maturing. Consequently, it still has some weak points that hopefully will be improved with the passage of time.

The first factor that caught my attention while I was reviewing this technology is the price. Albeit the company reduced the price with the last version of eSight compared to previous releases, it is still expensive. The $10.000 needed for accessing to this apparatus makes it unaffordable for many people taking into account that there is not a payment plan available to acquire it yet and the cost is not covered by insurance companies. On the other hand, the company is putting their efforts to down the price and make it more accessible.

Another weakness that I found during my exploration about eSight is that it does not work 100% well for people who do not have central vision. Basically, the central vision is related to the field of view of a person. Those people without central vision find hard to focus straight ahead and to identify objects with clarity and detail. The reason eSight does not work properly in this case is because the hight definition screens on the headset are positioned mostly in the central vision area of the user. Still, their vision can be improved a lot with these electronic glasses.

Lastly, another aspect to point out and not less relevant is that eSight power supply is battery-based. Although they have made a good improvement and the battery can last up to 8 hours, this component of the eSight head mounted set can be definitely upgraded.

Testimony of the use of eSight

There is still more to do

For sure, eSight Corportation will continue working on its product. Currently, the last version is eSight3. There are other 2 previous versions. This last one has incorporated Wi-Fi, bluetooh, HDMI capabilities for content streaming, and an image sensor of 21.5 megapixels.

Apart from eSight, there are many other companies working on providing solutions for people with visual issues. However, those solutions are quite different from eSight in the sense that they do not leverage the potential of live video streaming but instead use other techniques to help visually impaired. Discussion and comparisson between different other solutions is beyond the scope of this essay but among other products it can be found Orcam, nuEyes, BrainPort, thirdEye and aira.

After this work, it can be stated that more than just building technology, a crucial point is the impact that the built technology will have in our society. It has been analyzed a product that certainly has changed and will change the life of a hundred of people who have born with or have developed different capabilites. It has been pointed out some good aspects and some other which could be strengthened. Definitely, it is in our hand to build innovative solutions to cause such as impact in our world. eSight is just one of many examples that we can highlight. As it was expressed by Times Magazine about eSight: "In a world of Internet-connected coffeemakers and juicers and whatnot, it’s nice to find a gadget aiming to solve problems of a higher order".


Go to the presentation


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