This Visor Straight Out of 'Star Trek' Helps Legally Blind People See

esight visor and star trek the next generation geordie laforge
eSight, CBS Television Distribution

Geordi LaForge was so many things on Star Trek: The Next Generation -- an unflappably capable pilot, a scrappy youthful voice on the bridge, and later a ranking officer by the time he was promoted to chief engineer. He was also blind, and the visor that enabled him to see is one of the coolest gadgets in science-fiction history. Now it's turned into science fact.

The eSight 3 is a headset you can wear that simulates natural eyesight for users who have difficulty seeing. It does this by projecting real-time images from a high-resolution camera onto OLED screens in front of your eyes. This is eSight's third iteration of the technology, and while the headset retails for around $10,000, the company claims to be committed to help legally blind patients get one, "regardless of their ability to pay."

It certainly seems worth it for some people. CNET interviewed Yvonne Felix, a woman who lost her sight to Stargardt disease after being hit by a car when she was 7. The experience gave her a blind spot that obscures 98% of her visual field, CNET reports. Despite that: "I remember putting them on and looking up and I saw my husband who I'd been married to for eight years and had never seen before."

It's important to note that eSight won't restore vision wholesale in every case. According to CEO, Dr. Brian Mech, the technology has a 50% chance of working in all conditions. It's also, in its third iteration, still bulky, operated with a separate handset that adjusts for stuff like picture and contrast, and is not yet waterproof. Still, they're getting there, he tells CNET, and is bullish about the prospect of adapting the technology to contact lenses: "We're not talking 20 years from now, we're talking about maybe in the next five to 10 years." (If you remember your Star Trek lore, LaForge eventually got those too.)

For now though, it's enough that people like Felix can experience seeing anything, especially the moments that count, like seeing her 2-month-old son for the first time. "It was the most beautiful image, like it's burned in my mind for the rest of my life," she said.


Eric Vilas-Boas is a writer and editor at Thrillist. Follow him @e_vb_.
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