Why Global Citizens Should Care
Conflicts drive 80% of all humanitarian needs around the world, according to the World Bank. But technology like this can play a part in navigating hard-to-reach areas with lifesaving assistance — and the British government is playing an important role investing in such innovation. Take action here to support people affected by conflict.

The future doesn’t seem quite so far away anymore.

The video phone glasses from Back to the Future II seem almost prehistoric in a world with Google Glass and virtual reality headsets. Even those creepy memory lenses from Black Mirror might be brought to life after Samsung patented similar technology that takes a photo when the wearer blinks. 

We might be a few mad scientists from Dan Aykroyd’s Ecto Goggles — the specs that help him see invisible ghouls in Ghostbusters — but for surgeons operating in dangerous war zones around the world, futuristic glasses could soon be saving lives.

Who you gonna call? UK aid, apparently.

Take Action: Tell Your MP to Stand Up for UK Aid

The glasses, developed by Iristick, have built-in cameras with a remote-controlled zoom facility.

It allows surgeons — who can control the zoom feature from thousands of miles away — to provide guidance to doctors and local health workers in areas of conflict to operate on people in real-time. All it needs is a mobile phone to power it.

Essentially that means expertise can be shared more widely — and surgeons can assist in emergency procedures in the world’s most dangerous places without ever actually stepping into a warzone. 

And Britain is helping thrust the future into the present.

The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) invested £250,000 into the project in December, according to the Daily Mail. 

Read More: 8 Wonderful Things Britain Did for the World in 2018 That Have Nothing to Do With Brexit

It came about after DfID invited businesses to use technology to solve humanitarian challenges around the world — and Iristick caught their eye (sorry). And Penny Mordaunt, secretary of state for international development, was impressed by the company’s imaginative approach.

“A few decades ago these smart glasses would have been science fiction,” Mordaunt said. “Now, because of UK aid, they are on the cusp of saving real lives in the real world.”

Britain spends 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on UK aid — the budget used to help the 736 million people around the world who live in extreme poverty. In 2017, that equated to just over £14 billion.

Virtual reality is one thing, but these glasses provide a very real service in places where quality healthcare is often difficult to come by. The World Bank reports that 2 billion people live in countries where development is affected by fragility, conflict, and violence — and with war only appearing to get worse, it will be grow harder to help those hurt by it.

“Distance does not count anymore,” said Steven Serneels, co-founder of Iristick. “As long as you have access to the internet, these glasses work. It's a real time experience.”

Read More: Britain Claps Back at Daily Mail for 'Factually Inaccurate' Headline

“People that are not supported by remote experts can stream movies which guide them with what they are doing,” he added.

Beyond development, Iristick hopes the glasses will have industrial benefits too: scanning barcodes and connecting experts to technicians.

Next stroke of genius: X-Men’s Cyclops, that ruby-quartz visor, and a way to convert his laser beam eyes to renewable energy!


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By James Hitchings-Hales