Partially sighted people may be able to buy smartglasses by 2016

A pair of smart glasses designed to help visually impaired people get about could be in shops as soon as 2016.

You might recall that we first reported on these specs two months ago, when scientists at Oxford University first revealed the invention. The smart glasses consist of a video camera mounted on the frame, along with a small computer unit which runs software that generates images of nearby objects on the display of the glasses, enabling the partially sighted to be able to see them.

It’s a clever idea, albeit with a rather chunky prototype as you can see from the image above. However, the project recently won $750,000 worth of funding via the Google Impact Challenge, money which will be used to help slim the specs down.

The man in charge of the development of the gadget, Dr Stephen Hicks, told Sky News: “The Google Impact Grant will allow us to make smaller, lighter and cheaper versions that people can carry around. It will be powered by something about the size of a mobile phone that can slip into your pocket.”

Trials have already been carried out with the smart glasses, and more testing is expected to take place soon, with a target date of hitting shelves the year after next with a price tag of $500. That would be impressively cheap for a gadget which would make such a difference to the lives of partially sighted people.

Other features may be added as development of the gadget continues, including things like text recognition and an earpiece, so the glasses could effectively read out the writing on a sign, for example.