We wrote about Envision’s smartphone app paired with Google Glass smart eyewear for vision-impaired persons earlier this year in March. At that time, the platform was in the preorder stage and Envision expected to ship the system in August. Then a pandemic happened. Envision recently announced that Envision Glasses are shipping worldwide.

There’s a lot to get one’s head around (no pun intended) to understand Envision Glass’s full functionality and potential to dramatically improve independence, communications, and everyday living for people who are visually impaired or blind. The system isn’t inexpensive, certainly when compared to corrective eyeglasses. Envision Glasses cost $3,500, though there are other variations. As Alfred Poor wrote in our earlier coverage, comparing the cost of Envision Glasses to high-powered hearing aids is more appropriate than to regular corrective glasses.

There is a version of Envision Glasses with a Smith Optics Frame that can hold corrective lenses, but the standard titanium frame has no lenses and weighs just 50 grams. Powered by a rechargeable battery, the glasses can operate for up to 6 hours per charge.

The Envision AI platform has a built-in 8-megapixel camera that “sees” for the wearer. According to Envision, the glasses can process the camera’s images to read, describe, identify, or interpret a scene, then deliver this information to the wearer via a directional monaural speaker. According to Envision, typical uses include reading a letter, checking the labels of foods or medicines, and interpreting signage to give directions via the speaker. Envision describes the platform’s optical character recognition as the fastest and most accurate in the world with the ability to recognize text and script in more than 60 languages.

Wearers can make video calls to others who have the Envisions Ally app. A user can also connect with Envisions support staff for assistance figuring out where they are and what’s going on around them. In addition to reading signs or short text, the system can also capture longer passages and export them to the Envision app for translation or storage in various formats. Images and video content can also be transmitted as email, notes, or messages for common platforms such as WhatsApp.

The Envision Glasses’ extensive library of capabilities includes functions such as recognizing colors to help select coordinating clothing or to separate whites from darks for wash loads, The system can recognize and quietly identify friends’ and family members’ faces to the wearer, or even find the users keys or remote control. In the Explore mode, the glasses help the wearer discover what’s around them. Envision Glasses and the AI platform are iOS and Android compatible with over-the-air updating via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for software releases and new functions.

I’ve touched on the highpoints, but the claimed capabilities of the Envision Glasses and the AI platform are astounding. According to Envision, its AI-assistive iOS and Android smartphone app, which also works without the glasses directly with smartphone cameras, won the 2019 Google Play Awards Best Accessibility App and a Hall of Fame Award by AppleVis. The Envision Glasses platform is an important, impressive product, that has the potential to provide unprecedented levels of independence and freedom to people with visual impairments.