A couple from Barcelona built A.I. smart glasses to help their son see

Showing visually impaired people the way with their A.I. smart glasses.
Chris Young
Biel wearing the Biel Glasses.Biel Glasses

A couple from Barcelona started a company to help their son, who has low vision, navigate his surroundings with greater ease.

"The motivation was my son, Biel" Jaume Puig, co-founder of Biel Glasses told IE in an interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, while pointing out a picture (above) of his child wearing the startup's smart glasses.

He and his wife, Constanza Lucero designed a pair of smart glasses that use artificial intelligence (A.I.) and augmented reality to indicate oncoming obstacles to wearers.

New A.I. smart glasses signal oncoming obstacles

When Biel was a toddler, his parents Puig and Lucero realized he was falling over a lot and had problems navigating stairs and crowded spaces. After seeing several doctors, their son was diagnosed with low vision.

The couple quickly realized there was a lack of tools built to help people with the relatively common condition, so they decided to build one for themselves, and founded Biel Glasses in 2017. The couple drew from their respective fields — Puig is an electrical engineer and Lucero a doctor — to build smart glasses that overlay text and graphics over the real-time video feed of their users' surroundings. They use A.I. algorithms that detect obstacles, signaling them to the wearer as they approach. Users gain added independence, and parents' and loved ones' peace of mind.

In their current version, Biel Glasses' smart glasses look like a pair of VR goggles strapped with a small box that helps to map the user's surroundings. The next step is to make them more user-friendly and boost their connectivity. "We require very low-latency for our glasses, so we are investing in 5G and also want to make the glasses smaller," Puig explained, though he said they depend on display technology innovations to make this happen.

Vastly improving the life quality of the visually impaired

Though the ultimate goal for Puig and Lucero was to help their son see, they also want to aid the wider community of people with low vision, most of whom are above the age of 50, Puig explained. First, the company aims to commercialize the adult version, and then it will build a specialized model for children, which may rely on advances allowing for the hardware to be less clunky. "For children, it's a bit more difficult, so we had to start the initial testing with adults," Puig explained, though he hopes the company can soon build a model that will fit his son and others like him.

Puig told us that Biel Glasses are just now starting the commercialization process. They are validating their technology with help from the Catalan government, and if all goes to plan, they will be able to bring their smart glasses to the market this year by the end of summer. Once available, the Biel Glasses will help to meet an increasing demand for these types of tools — according to a recent study, incidents of low vision and blindness will more than double in the next 30 years, resulting in 2.3 million people who are blind and more than 9.5 million diagnosed with low vision.

Several companies in recent years have used smart glasses technology to help wearers improve their vision. Last year, for example, Japan's Kubota Pharmaceutical Holdings built a pair of smart specs that help wearers with myopia. There are a whole host of potential applications for smart glasses, and vastly improved quality of life for the visually impaired is one of the innovations that might come to the market very soon.

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