'Roboglasses' for the Blind Get Boost From Grant

'Roboglasses' for the Blind Get Boost From Grant
Fauxsee Innovations Founder, President and CEO Brandon Foshee with his guide dog, Shakespeare. (Arkansas Small Business Technology & Development Center)

Fauxsee Innovations of Magnolia has landed a one-year, $226,000 grant from the National Eye Institute to continue developing its first product, Roboglasses.

It will conduct a 20-participant human trial in Little Rock in August.

Founder, President and CEO Brandon Foshee has a unique perspective that sets Fauxsee apart from competitors, he says. He’s blind, and since his company hopes to produce devices for the blind and visually impaired, he’ll not only be creating products, but using them himself.

Foshee’s perspective is is also shaped by the fact that he wasn’t born blind. He lost his sight while he was earning his bachelor’s degree in history from Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. Foshee graduated from SAU and graduated from a real estate school in Florida before, inspired by his condition, he decided to start Fauxsee in 2011.

Fauxsee has three employees beyond its founder. The Roboglasses are its first project, a project that didn’t receive funding until 2013. Since then, $700,000 — a sum that includes grant money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation and $20,000 awarded by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission — has been invested in the glasses, Foshee said.

Several other products are in various stages of development, but the Roboglasses are closest to going to market. Fauxsee is taking preorders now and plans to sell the glasses in summer 2018.

The glasses work using linear resonant actuators that provide a touch sensation. The actuators are located in the stems of the glasses and alert the user when he or she is a certain distance from an object or person. There are settings for indoor and outdoor use.

Foshee explained that the glasses will tell blind people with a touch how far they are from a person or an object, such as a wall, so they can avoid running into that person or object.

“These glasses are going to touch you so you don’t have to touch somebody with that cane to know they’re there,” Foshee said, agreeing that they’ll greatly reduce social awkwardness.

Also, an earlier prototype required the user to be plugged into a computer, but Fauxsee has figured out how to make the technology small enough to fit inside a normal pair of sunglasses. The glasses will soon be tested at the University of Maine, and Fauxsee will gather feedback.

The ultimate goal is for the Roboglasses to receive approval from the federal Food & Drug Administration and then be covered under health insurance and Medicare policies, Foshee said. FDA approval typically takes two years, he said, and, in a best case, the glasses would be approved in 2019.