New kit beams images straight onto the retina from Sony camera
In an effort to help vision-impaired people enjoy taking photographs, Sony has paired with QD Laser to create a retinal projection camera kit. By bypassing the outer layers of the eyes, the kit allows those who would otherwise have difficulty doing so see and capture the world around them.
Retinal projection dates back to the 1980s when a nearly blind poet named Elizabeth Goldring (who is now a Senior Fellow at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies) encountered a machine known as a Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope at her optometrist's office. Working with the man who invented that machine, Robert Webb, Goldring eventually created a camera she called RIVS, or the Retinal Imaging Machine Vision System. The idea is that projecting images directly onto the retina of the eye bypasses certain defects in the rest of the eye that cause vision impairment. In effect, it turns the retina into a projection screen that bypasses the eye's focussing mechanism.
Since then, we've seen similar technology incorporated into a pair of virtual reality headsets that ultimately fizzled out, as well as a pair of glasses that were only developed as a prototype.
Now, Sony has partnered with a company called QD Laser – which creates an add-on retinal projection viewfinder called the Retissa Neoviewer – to bring the tech to the world of digital photography.
"The laser retinal projection of Retissa Neoviewer is a completely new technology that has been put to practical use for the first time in the world," said Mitsuru Sugawara, President and CEO of QD Laser. "With the DSC-HX99 RNV kit that includes Sony's digital still camera, we hope that people who may have found traditional viewfinders difficult to use will now enjoy taking photos, expanding their range of activities and discovering new worlds."
Once the viewfinder is attached to the camera, those with certain types of vision impairment – especially those with focus issues – will be able to access all the typical features of the DSC-HX99, which can capture 4K videos and photos in RAW mode, and has a 30x optical zoom. While the camera can be found online for under US$500, the viewfinder adds an additional cost that Sony doesn't specify but says it will help subsidize by introducing the kit at a total price of $600.
The company says the kit will be available in limited quantities starting early this summer (Northern Hemisphere) on its website.
Sony says the release of the kit corresponds with its support of the "With My Eyes" program created by QD Laser, which aims to bring clearer vision to those with impaired sight. As part of that program, the company has released the following video, documenting Paralympic swimmer Kota Shimizu's experience with the gear.
Source: Sony Electronics
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