This report may only be reproduced in its entirety and not in part. This is a short version of the Smart Glasses report. For the full report with appendices and complete result data, please visit RNIB Research Hub using the link below:
There are over 30 million blind people worldwide and up to 300,000 in the UK. Many face restricted social lives, reduced work prospects and lower independence due to difficulties in performing everyday tasks. Over 90% of these individuals have some useful remaining vision and our partners at the University of Oxford have been carrying out fundamental research into low-cost and non-invasive wearable technologies based on depth cameras and see-through displays to enhance sight for obstacle avoidance, face recognition and object recognition. Funding from the Google Impact Challenge in 2014 allowed us to build and test this technology, and taking it out of the lab and putting it into the hands of the public for the very first time.
The “Smart Glasses” used in this project are an augmented reality display system that assists people with severe sight loss to make sense of their surroundings. They were designed by the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Oxford University, and they work by using cameras and a computer processor to simplify the visual scene and increase its visibility through enhanced contrast and brightness.
The Smart Glasses unit is made up of a headset and a control box which are connected by a cable. The Smart Glasses allow the user to change between five ‘modes’: the first two modes use an infra-red camera and show the world in monochrome. These modes are most useful for low or indoor light. The last two modes use a regular (visible light, RGB) camera and can therefore be used outdoors. Mode 3 uses data from both cameras. Only Mode 5 displays the visual scene in colour.
Initially our participants were invited to take part in ‘observed’ user testing in a lab setting. These sessions were led by a trained observer and included a familiarisation session of approximately 45 minutes followed by a series of tasks carried out both with and without the Smart Glasses to assess their benefits.
Following this, participants who had successfully utilised the Smart Glasses were invited to take part in the ‘take home’ user testing, where they would use the glasses in their own home for a period of 3 weeks.