Giant frickin’ laser beams get all the buzz and sci-fi love, but it’s our little laser bros that are putting in the work: taking measurements, entertaining our cats, and now, in the case of a Sony camera, helping people with vision problems see clearly through an electronic viewfinder and take pictures.
Sony is working with fellow Japanese company QD Laser to release the HX99 RNV Retina Projection Camera kit, a compact camera with an add-on retinal laser housing for projecting the camera’s focused live view image into the user’s eye. The low-power laser projection is designed to effectively bypass the focusing of the eye, helping users with visual impairments like shortsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism see a clear image.
A 2018 camera with some new laser tricks
It uses Sony’s existing DSC-HX99 compact camera, which is a somewhat middling model from 2018 with an 18-megapixel sensor and equivalent zoom lens of 24-720mm (30x magnification), combined with QD Laser’s Retissa Neoviewer projector. According to QD Laser’s specs, the Retissa Neoviewer uses an RGB semiconductor laser to display an image with an equivalent of 720p resolution and 8-bit color depth. This beamed image has an approximate 60-degree horizontal field of view with 60Hz refresh, and the housing’s battery has an estimated four hours of battery life. Tragically, it charges via Micro USB instead of USB-C.
The extra kicker here is that while the DSC-HX99 camera normally costs $474.99 on its own, Sony is offering the kit with both the camera and laser projector for $599.99 — claiming it is bearing the majority of the cost in an effort to support the low-vision community. Sony is also encouraging users to try it before purchasing, as it may not be suitable for all visual impairments, and is offering appointments via phone or email. The camera and projector kit will be available in the US in limited quantities beginning this summer.
While this device is designed exclusively for the aging DSC-HX99, it isn’t technically limited to that camera. A spokesperson for QD Laser, Nori Miyauchi, said in a video interview with CineD on YouTube that other cameras can potentially work with it via HDMI. Of course, the housing for the Retissa Neoviewer looks tightly integrated to the dimensions and design of the DSC-HX99, potentially making it awkward to adapt to something like Sony’s popular Alpha line of interchangeable mirrorless cameras.
But hopefully this experiment means there can one day be a more universal model, allowing low-vision users to easily adapt it to the full-size camera of their choice.