Ottawa’s eSight Eyewear helps the legally blind see again

Digital glasses optimize existing vision

Woman wearing eSight eyewear

eSight Eyewear’s digital goggles allow the visually impaired to see better. (eSight)

Imagine being legally blind one day and being able to see with close to 20/20 vision the next. Ottawa-based eSight Eyewear is helping people do just that. Last October the company began offering its game-changing eyewear to the public, and it has already signed up around 70 users.

While most vision-enhancing devices improve close-range vision or distance vision, but not both—at least not seamlessly—eSight automatically adapts to whatever the user is looking at, whether it’s a book 12 inches away or a TV screen 12 feet away.

Animated gif showing eSight's googles zooming in on a newspaper headline

eSight’s vision-boosting goggles allows people with impaired vision to adjust the zoom, contrast, or colour balance of their field of vision. (eSight Eyewear)

The actual technology looks like a pair of bulky, futuristic sunglasses connected to a small controller unit. The glasses contain a high-definition camera that captures whatever the user is looking at and then projects that in real time onto two screens in front of a person’s eyes. Those images can be personalized for size, colour and contrast depending on the user’s needs. The eyewear doesn’t work for all types of low vision and blindness—but it does improve sight for those with macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and some kinds of glaucoma.

With an aging population and a global diabetes epidemic raging, the number of people with severe vision impairments is growing quickly. And although the eyewear might look cumbersome and comes with a hefty price tag—around $15,000 for the eyewear and the service package—it allows those people to engage fully with the world around them. “It’s somewhat transformational,” says CEO Kevin Rankin. “It lets people go about their lives.”