LONDON: A UK-based Indian-origin entrepreneur is in the process of setting up a base in India for the launch of a range of smart glasses for people with sight loss, devised by an Oxford University research spin-off start-up.
Rakesh Roshan is the CEO of OXSIGHT, a company founded in 2016 to create wearable technology devices based on research into how the brain manages visual information.
The company began conducting trials in India two years ago in partnership with leading eye hospitals and clinics and is now in the process of setting up a 100 per cent subsidiary in India to make the devices, which are aimed at innovative solutions for sight degeneration, more widely available.
"In the first phase, we have appointed a distributor in India, who will import the devices and sell it directly to our customers who have already gone through the product trials," Roshan said at a global launch event for OXSIGHT in London earlier this week.
"In the second phase, we will sign a few more distributors as India is a large country. Our India office will continue to work with distributors, manufacture in India, run the R&D centre, and operate our customer care centre in various languages," he said.
The company has eight product testing centres in India, including in Kolkata and Hyderabad, with Sushant OXSIGHT Low Vision Centre of Excellence at Ansal University in Delhi as its central clinic.
A small team also runs mobile clinics at other hospitals and clinics, with plans for its wider adoption across the country over the years.
"Like any other technologies and continued R&D focus, we expect the prices to come down and also with increased volume the economy of scale kicks in," said Roshan.
Globally, it is estimated that around 1.3 billion people live with some form of visual impairment.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 188.5 million have mild visual impairment, 217 million have moderate to severe visual impairment and 36 million people are blind.
"There is very little awareness in India about low vision and a lot more government support is required in the area," said Professor Monica Chaudhary, Director of the School of Health Sciences at Ansal University, who is one of the Indian experts working with OXSIGHT.
Experts believe that the new technology will help address the lack of distinction between low vision and complete blindness.
Peripheral vision loss is commonly caused by degenerative sight loss conditions such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and retinitis pigmentosa.
The founding members of OXSIGHT began their research at the University of Oxford in 2010, working closely with the low vision community in the UK.
The aim was to develop this knowledge into innovative solutions for sight degeneration that have a balance of style, functionality and intuitive technology.
The first device, OXSIGHT Prism smart glasses, was launched last year, and the company is in the process of developing clinical partnerships with a number of opticians across the UK and Europe.
At present, the company is providing trials, fitting and clinical support at their clinics in London, Oxford and Greater Manchester Area through several clinical partners.
OXSIGHT partnered with Epson to develop their smart glasses to help people with peripheral vision loss, also known as "tunnel vision".
The smart glasses use augmented reality and image interpretation technology to enhance users' remaining vision.
They are controlled via a hand-held console and fitted with a camera which streams a live-feed into two high-resolution video displays.
These screens are placed directly in front of the wearer's eyes and the images produced are manipulated to fit into the user's area of useable vision.
"The OXSIGHT Prism is worth it for me because it allows me to make the most of my remaining sight.
One of the best things was that when I first tried the Prism device on, I found that I could see my wife's eyes, which I haven't been able to see for at least 10 years," said David Quigley, one of the first people in the UK to get an OXSIGHT Prism device.
The OXSIGHT glasses have seven modes, with features including increased image contrast, super colour mode, textmode, edge enhancement, inverted colour and digital zoom to allow users to magnify objects and obstacles.
These features have been shown to enhance the remaining vision of people with peripheral vision loss.