'Personal video' deal in sight

A BRITISH inventor of the 'personal video' - a set of goggles that can transmit moving images just inches from the eye - says he is close to making a deal with two foreign companies about developing the device to help partially- sighted people see.

William Johnson, whose Gogglebox idea was shown to be feasible by scientists at Loughborough University, said there was no British company prepared to take the risk of developing his invention into a product. 'The UK is rather out of that area altogether now. We're selling technology rather than industrialising it.'

Mr Johnson said that two companies, one in Japan and one in the United States, were 'in very major discussions at the moment' with him about developing the Gogglebox into an aid for people who are officially classed as blind because they have difficulty seeing objects beyond arm's length.

The Gogglebox, which was developed originally as a personal video device, magnifies images on two tiny liquid crystal displays. An optical system invented by Mr Johnson, called Microsharp, creates a sharp image even though it appears just inches from the eye. Mr Johnson said that about three- quarters of blind people have difficulty with distant objects, yet can see near images well enough for the Gogglebox to help. It would require, he said, the device to be fitted with a small, inexpensive video camera.

He is also working on another version of the Gogglebox attached to a pencil camera that the partially-sighted wearer can use to read lines of print. 'In many ways it is better than Braille,' he said.

'At the moment there doesn't seem to be a problem with the actual concept, but there's an enormous number of tests to be done.'

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