New eSight glasses have allowed a legally blind woman to see her newborn baby for the first time.
Kathy Beitz is suffering from Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration, which robbed her of most of her vision. Instead of seeing faces and expressions, the new mother only saw blurry, undefined, shapes.
The devices use a prescription lens frame, holding a headset. A hand controller is used to adapt a live video stream, optimizing an LED display, placed directly in front of the eyes of a user. These controls permit the operator to adjust contrast, brightness, and color of the image, in order to provide better vision.
"Crucially, eSight can adapt to any situation and maintains peripheral sight, ensuring people can use their glasses in any situation. Whether to enjoy the benefits of sight while stationary - such as while reading, watching TV, or having a conversation... eSight users take their glasses everywhere, use them in any situation, and enjoy the benefits of improved sight, however they want," eSight managers wrote on the company Web site.
Using the eSight device, users are able to zoom in on details of objects with 14 times the magnification of normal vision. This allows operators to "zoom in" on objects across the room, as if they had binoculars.
The glasses also allowed Mark Cornell, a veteran who was legally blind for 20 years, to see once again. Users must have some degree of natural vision for eSight to function, as the device does not work for those who are completely blind.
Like the eyepiece worn by Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the eSight device could provide eyesight to the blind which is, in some ways, superior to natural human vision.
"Interestingly, eSight's many unique features - such as 14-times zoom, image contrast enhancement, reverse color display, etc. - enable eSight users to actually see many things that normally-sighted people cannot see," the company reported on a FAQ Web page for the product.
The eSight devices are large and bulky, and further development will be directed, partly, to creating new versions of the glasses with are less obtrusive than available today.
Currently, eSight glasses cost around $15,000, but the company offers services to assist people in affording the devices. Only around 140 people around North America currently use eSight.
"When I got to see his smile - it does, it does feel amazing. And I get to be a part of his smiles and giggles," Beitz told reporters.
The video of Beitz seeing her infant using eSight is available on the YouTube channel of Yvonne Felix.