Israel can be justifiably proud of the progress they have made to create an accessible country for its citizens and visitors to enjoy. Over the years, many adapted products have also been created by Israelis which is an indication of the importance they place on discovering ways to improve the lives of people who live with disabilities.
For the sight-impaired, there is an exciting prospect looming. Israeli Professor Zeev Zalevsky and his research team have engineered a prototype that will significantly improve the lives of those who were born blind or are vision impaired to any extent. They have created a pair of spectacles which acts as the “eyes” of the wearer, allowing them to “see” using the tactile senses in the brain.
These unique spectacles are equipped with cameras which captures visual information. These images go through an array of micro loudspeakers, generating spatial pressure waves. When these waves get to the cornea, the visual received is translated by the brain’s tactile senses thereby creating a sensation which the wearer of the spectacles will then interpret.
The image seen by the camera bypasses the visual cortex of the sight-impaired wearer and instead, stimulates the tactile cortex, making a connection in the brain with the feeling that’s associated with that image. By that process, a sight-impaired person can relate to what is being seen, but to correctly make this association, they must be trained to translate the spatial tactile sensation with the correct visual information.
During the spectacles’ clinical trials, Professor Zalevsky said a group of subjects were trained to identify simple spatial shapes/objects. The training duration was less than 30 minutes after which they were able to accurately pair that “feeling” on the surface of the eye with what the visual information the camera captures. Professor Zalevsky explained, “Symbolic imagery is what the spectacle-wearer uses. The camera captures the image and successfully translates that image into a symbol. We have now proven that it is possible to interpret visual spatial information by tactile spatial stimulation of the cornea. Basic symbols and shapes can be transmitted and identified by a subjects with a high degree of probability.”
The use of these spectacles is not restricted only to the sight-impaired. It can be worn by anyone when faced with circumstances that may require engagement of the tactile senses. For example, at the scene of a fire, a fireman who wears it will be able to “see” through smoke if an infra-red camera is mounted on top of those spectacles; it can be worn by soldiers and by cyclists, and the list continues.
This non-invasive, revolutionary pair of spectacles is still in the prototype stage.
Additional funds are currently been sought by Professor Zeev Zalevsky and his research team to take them through the next stage of their research and product development. It is hoped that these spectacles will soon be brought to market so that its benefits may be utilized – symbolic representation of objects imaged by the spectacles’ camera, resulting in the achievement of the previously unattainable – “sight” for the sight-impaired!
Professor Zeev Zalevsky
Zeev Zalevsky received his B.Sc. and direct Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Tel-Aviv University in 1993 and 1996 respectively. Zeev is currently a full Professor and the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering in Bar-Ilan University, Israel.
His major fields of research are Optical Super Resolution, Biomedical Optics, Nano-Photonics and Fiber-based Processing and Sensing Architectures.
Zeev has published more than 510 peer review papers, 330 proceeding papers, 9 books (6 authored and 3 as an editor), 30 book chapters and about 100 patents. Zeev gave 600 conference presentations with more than 200 invited/keynote or plenary talks.
Zeev is a fellow of many large scientific societies such as SPIE, OSA, IEEE, EOS, IOP, IET, IS&T and more. He is also a fellow of the American National Academy of Inventors (NAI). For his work he received many national and international prizes.