Special Glasses Help Faltering Eyesight

For 54-year-old John Balogh, the world is blurry and even the faces of the people he loves slip away into a gray mist.

"It is very similar to looking through a film," Balogh told Good Morning America. "The colors are not as sharp and clear as they used to be. And the blurriness is a big issue."

Balogh has optic neuropathy, a condition that causes parts of his vision to melt away. Even while wearing magnifying lenses, simple pleasures like reading to his two grandchildren became a chore.

But researchers have developed a cutting-edge technology called the Jordy to help Balogh and the more than 13 million Americans who have similar debilitating vision conditions, such as macular degeneration (increasingly blurred or distorted vision) or glaucoma.

Computer Chip Inside Glasses

"It's like wearing the most powerful pair of binoculars you've ever seen," said Dr. Ned Witkin, the director of low vision at Emory Eye Center, where the device was tested. "I'm real excited about it. I think it is the most exciting thing to come along in many, many years to help the visually impaired."

The Jordy, developed by Enhanced Vision Systems of Huntington Beach, Calif., and on the market starting today, can improve vision as poor as 20/400 to a near-normal 20/40.

Though it produces an effect similar to binoculars, it is much more high-tech. A tiny computer chip placed in the center of the glasses captures and projects images via a liquid crystal display, directly onto the patient's retina at 25 to 60 times their normal size.

Not for Everyone

But, as ABCNEWS Dr. Tim Johnson points out, the Jordy does not necessarily work for everyone.

"It's mainly for people with central vision loss, who wish to regain some parts of their independence," Johnson said. Wearers cannot drive or walk with the glasses because the magnification throws off their depth perception. But the glasses, which magnify 25 times for distance viewing and 50 times for up-close viewing, can ease activities such as reading, writing, watching TV and playing cards.

Balogh and Jessie Linzer are two of the four people who previewed the new technology.

Linzer, 86, could barely read the third line of this eye chart because of his macular degeneration. But when wearing the Jordy, his poor vision is transformed to near normal and he is able to easily read Reader's Digest, for instance.

Seeing Family Again

For Balogh, he is able to see his family clearly again.

"I can see my wife, she's waving at me, which is nice, the details instead of being merged become specific and clarified," Balogh said.

The glasses, available this week through optometrists and low-vision centers, will retail for about $3,000 and are not covered by insurance, Johnson said.

They are the second version of the Jordy. Last year's debut model was more like a helmet, but the developers were able to make the Jordy smaller and reduce its weight to six ounces, which is 30 percent lighter than the original.

It is self-focusing, and can be focused additionally via a device that can be held or snapped onto a belt, and it can provide color or black-and-white imaging.

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