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When their two-year-old son, Biel, started falling a lot and struggled to climb the stairs after learning to walk, Jaume Puig and his wife sought medical help to figure out the problem.
After seeing several doctors, the toddler was diagnosed with low vision, a condition much more common than blindness that makes daily tasks difficult.
In Biel’s case, this was due to a problem with the optic nerve, but the condition can also be caused by defects in the retina, brain, or other parts of the visual system, or by conditions such as glaucoma or macular degeneration.
Low vision cannot be corrected with glasses or surgery. And while magnifiers can help with specific tasks like reading, there was no technology available to help the toddler move around.
So in 2017 Puig, a Spanish electrical engineer, and his wife Constanza Lucero, a doctor, founded Biel Glasses, a company that created a digital device to help visually impaired people move around safely on their own.
“There are canes and guide dogs. Nothing else. We got into this because we saw there was a need,” Puig, 52, told AFP at the time. of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, the largest annual gathering of the telecommunications industry.
The helmet is on display at the show.
A cross between gaming glasses and glasses, it creates a 3D image on which text, graphics and videos can be overlaid on real world images.
It also uses AI to detect and report obstacles.
– Real-time visual warning –
“We thought we could use these technologies to take advantage of the vision he has so that he can be more independent.
“Maybe we can’t cure him, but we can help him,” Puig said of his eight-year-old son.
When a carrier approaches an object blocking their path, a large red circle appears on the screen to warn them of the obstacle.
It also allows them to zoom in on a road sign or other object.
The development of the glasses cost 900,000 euros ($ 1 million), of which the couple invested 65,000 euros of their own money, the rest coming from public institutions and crowdfunding.
They worked with a team of doctors and computer engineers, including one of Spain’s top low vision specialists, to create the product that has been approved for use in the European Union.
It is expected to go on sale in Spain and Denmark later this year.
The glasses, which must be personalized for the specific needs of each user, cost 4,900 euros ($ 5,850).
Puig, who founded several other tech startups, now hopes to add voice activation and a navigation system that works with Google Maps in future versions of the glasses.
© 2021 AFP