HTC Vive Gives Legally Blind Man The Power Of Sight With The Help Of VR

For many of us, the allure of virtual reality headsets is the enhanced level of immersion for gaming and experiences that we might not otherwise encounter, like climbing Mount Everest. And for others, it's the possible applications in science and research that's exciting. But for Jamie Soar, a U.K. resident who's visually impaired, it's the simple act of seeing that makes VR awesome, and he got to experience the wonder of sight for the first time while wearing an HTC Vive headset.

There's a wonderful write-up by UploadVR about Soar's experience, and it reminds us why we love technology so much. According to the article, Soar was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary eye disease that affects the retina's ability to respond to light. In Soar's case, he's severely near-sighted and uses a blind cane to maneuver at night or in otherwise dark locations. On top of that, Soar also suffers from diplopia, commonly known as double-vision.

HTC Vive

Normally Soar's conditions make it difficult if not near impossible to see. But when wearing the Vive, it's a brand new ballgame. He had been wanting to try one out on the assumption that having a pair of displays sit so close to his eyeballs might make him able to see, and he got his chance to test his theory when the Vive arrived in a PC World location in London, England.

"I was interested in VR from the beginning but knew I had to try it myself," Soar told UploadVR. "Part of me thought that something strapped to my face might work because of my reliance of things being up close. Where I lived in England there were essentially no demos, so when I saw that there would be one in London—even though it would only be a 15-20 minute experience— I decided to make the long journey and go for it."

In the real world, Soar was accustomed to leaning up close to computer displays, books, or whatever it was he wanted to see. To his delight, that wasn't necessary with the Vive. The VR headset gives the illusion of depth through special lenses that are just a few centimeters in front of the wearer's eyes, and for Soar, that negated the need to lean in close as he was used to doing.

Headsets like the Vive also use two screens, one for each eye, so Soar's double vision was no longer a factor (or not as much as it had been). Companies like HTC and Oculus probably didn't have vision impaired people in mind when designing their headsets, but the end result is the same—Soar was seeing things the same or similar as those who don't suffer from degenerative eye diseases. A simple demo of different color balloons floating into the sky caused him to jump out of his seat.

This was the first bit of technology that worked for Soar. He had previous tried things like the Nintendo 3DS and 3D movies, but nothing worked the way Vive did. Now he wants to get the message out to others who have the same conditions as him and encourage them to try the Vive for themselves.

Hits you right in the feels, doesn't it?