If you had to choose, which would you let go of first – sight, sound, or touch? Losing any of the three would be a serious setback, granted, but I think I would rather bid farewell to sound or touch (maybe even both together) than lose sight.

Our world is primarily oriented towards sight. More than sound, it’s the sense by which we navigate and communicate with the world around us…Albert Mehrabian, the researcher who developed the often quoted communication equation, attributes 7% of communication to what is verbalized, 38% to tone, and 55% to body language. Cut out sight and you’re in an end game, losing.

And touch, even with its ability to warm the soul and bring physical benefits besides, is not going to get you through the day. I’m putting my money on the guy who can see over the guy who can feel, every time.

So, sight is critical to our relationship with the world. How might this relationship be changed by…enhanced vision? Scientists at Oxford University are developing a tool to help enhance vision when it’s beyond correction. These ‘bionic glasses‘ are really compact computers, outfitted with the same technology you find in today’s smart phones and gaming systems: video cameras, position detectors, face recognition and tracking software, and depth sensors.

Rather than refocusing your eyes’ vision, they supplement it. Let’s say you have bad eyesight – the really bad, regularly-walk- into-the-wrong-bathroom variety. Wearing these glasses, video cameras embedded in the frame’s corners would record the men and women symbols on the respective bathroom’s doors as you approach them. Shape recognition technology would then register these forms, and tiny LED lights embedded in the glass lenses would illuminate the forms of the symbols, giving you a visual cue as to which door you need to walk through. Voila, embarrassing social faux pas avoided.

And this is only one of numerous possibilities for device functionality – a few others proposed by the Clinical Neurology team, led by Dr. Stephen Hicks, including coding of objects in the environ, either by color or intensity of illumination, and an ear piece that voices over text registered and translated from street signs.

It’s not hard to conceive of the commercial applications this might have. Despite the hype, virtual reality never really took root as hoped in the early 1990. Probably most importantly because of the quality of imaging technology used – but perhaps in part, as well, to the totality of the barrier it demanded of users. How about an enhanced reality, however? While these glasses wouldn’t allow for complete immersion in another environment, they would allow users to maintain social contact, as well as appearances. Augmented reality is already in play on phones, computer screens, and television screens…In some ways, glasses would offer greater convenience factor than these other devices for users seeking to engage a form of augmented reality. Is it possible that glasses might become our next ‘screen’?

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