We are the Borg. We will add heat and distance sensing to your vision.


[Gregory McRoberts] was born with reduced vision in one eye and has never experienced the three dimensional sight which most of us take for granted. Recently he was inspired by the concept of a hearing aid to build a device which can augment his vision. Behold, the very Borg-like eye-patch that he wears to add distance and heat to his palette of senses.

The hardware he chose is an Arduino-compatible Lilypad board. It is wired to an ultrasonic rangefinder and an infrared sensor which monitor the area in front of him. The function of his right eye is still capable of seeing light and color, so a pair of LED boards are mounted on the inside. One is connected to the thermal sensor, displaying blue when below eighty degrees Fahrenheit and red when above. The other LED is green and flashes at a different speed based on the range sensor’s reading.

This is distracting when a person with normal sight wears it because of the intensity of the LEDs. We found [Gregory's] explanation of this (called Helmet Fire) quite interesting.

[via Adafruit]


  1. MS3FGX says:

    Wish the documentation was a bit better, but definitely an impressive build. Is this kind of thing even available commercially?

  2. I’m looking forward to a follow up article the first time he tries to take this through airport security :-)

  3. Hirudinea says:

    If you have normal(ish) binocular vision this could be modified to display information with sound via ear buds, you could even get stereo information if you wore two mickey mouse style. Very nice build.

  4. blurybury says:

    brilliant! hard to believe no one thought of this earlier. no doubt many others will benefit from this innovative device

  5. spag says:

    Almost makes me sad that I have two normal eyes. Almost. Very nice build. I love human augmentation hacks :) I’ve got my own similar project that preserves normal vision in both eyes, perhaps I’ll post it here once it’s done.

  6. Squirrel says:

    He’s more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil.

  7. zdanee says:

    Wow! I always thought I’ll find something useful for my not-so-useful right eye. Now only if it would fit into the socket somehow…

  8. jim.chien.andalusia says:

    OFC the military are currently having fun getting a retinal projector with a really big image to work, so that you can focus on the battle with a computer game-like HUD that’s also always in focus and not taking an eye up.

  9. JB says:

    Hail Locutus…. our culture will adapt to service your kind… :P

    Awesome hack!

  10. TheMeh says:

    This is straight win. My hat is off to you!

  11. Now that’s a hack. Kudos.

  12. noiy says:

    this thing will get you arrested if you walk outside.

  13. oodain says:

    very cool way to utilize a malfunctioning eye, the ultimate repurposing.

  14. smilr says:

    This is rather awesome in my opinion.

    My only concern is the fixed aim of the sensors as compared to where you are looking.

    I can envision a more complicated build with gaze tracking ( I think I remember an article discussing this by using an ir led and webcam some time ago on hackaday) monitoring your eyeball, and aiming the sensors with a pair of servos so they look where you look would make it feel more natural in use.

    But then again, you’d have servos constantly chirping / whining on your face…

    • SOI Sentinel says:

      If noise is a concern, either small DC gear motors with high pulse frequency (40khz) or muscle wire actuators would work great. I would also think that a 16×4 matrix tied to the thermal cameras would work great for him. Biggest technical hurdle would be the eye tracking itself. Your options would be the IR + web cam method (lots of horsepower) or do EOG tracking of the eye by its electric fields. Trickier to do (silver contacts) but far easier to process the signals onboard on a microcontroller. Given it’s designed as an eye patch, this may be optimal actually. It wouldn’t need the space required for focusing the web cam.

  15. jason says:

    seeing this brings to memory a quote from a guy i met, but don’t really know: “Sometimes turning stumbling blocks into paving gravel requires the use of a large hammer.” Looks like Mr. McRoberts found his hammer…

  16. M1C4HTRON13 says:

    Sould be “We are Borg” not we are the borg

  17. Bosnoff says:

    It’s a shame that he can’t get a better pinpoint temperature reading from his setup. The sensor he is using has a 30 degree field of view. The same company makes a ten degree model but even that seems a bit wide. It would be cool to have precise readings from across the room, not just across the table. Perhaps the optics from an IR temperature gun could be used to accomplish this. They appear to use similar sensors.
    Here’s a look inside one of those temp guns.

    Overall I loved this project because he found a creative way to put his bad eye to good use. And if he were to shrink down the electronics a bit (or just hide them away from his face) this could even be socially acceptable. It might also help to introduce it to others as a prosthetic instead of an augmentation.

    • Whatnot says:

      It’s actually good it has a wide FoV since the sensors are aimed sideways it seems, and it would require you to walk around with your head sideways if it was narrow.

      • Bosnoff says:

        Maybe I misunderstand how these sensors work, but from what I know these devices have a cone shaped vision area. Since this one has a 30 degree viewing angle the size of the temperature zone measurement would vary by distance. For example if a wall were viewed from 5′ then a 2.6′ diameter circle would be the temperature measurement zone. Since this zone is a circle I do not understand how rotating the sensor sideways would affect the temperature measured. Narrowing the field of view will just give you a smaller circle and thus a more pinpoint temperature. For example I’ve seen a temperature gun which claims to have a 30 to 1 throw ratio which means that its viewing angle is about 1.9 degrees. This means that at 5′ it would only measure temperature in a 2″ diameter circle.

        Ah, after writing all that I looked at the picture again and think I understand what you meant by “sideways”. The way the sensors are mounted they aim slightly to the right of the person’s actual view.This could be easily compensated by tilting the sensors to counteract the slope of his face. Using a wider field of view to compensate for pointing it in the wrong direction sounds like a bad idea. Almost like a photographer using a fish eye lens because he can’t aim.

    • As long as he’s not using it to see through people’s clothes or his neighbor’s walls …..

  18. he looks like a borg

  19. It’s very Borg like indeed, and also awesome and creative.

  20. Paul says:

    Woah! So cool! :)

  21. Reduced vision and hearing, apparently exceptional brainpower and engineering skills. It’s cool that he was able to do this himself!

  22. segmation says:

    I wonder if I will see something like this at the CES convention this week in Las Vegas? What do you think?

  23. J.C.V. says:

    I would like to read Gregory’s experience. There is a group called MACS in UK that is full of children born without eyes or impaired vision. Vision loss is a silent plague and needs to be addressed with technology like this, but from Gregory’s perspective; is it worth it?

  24. I really like your blog and would love you to feature on mine, http://www.5thingstodotoday.com. All you have to do is write five suggestions along with a link back to your site. Please check out the blog and see the sort of things people have written about.

  25. Great invention; I just hope the aesthetic end of the design catches up soon …or maybe Terminator-style is kinda cool?

  26. crisgzr says:

    Wow! This is awesome! I hope it helps a lot of returning vets with vision injuries.

    I had 3 surgeries before I was 6 years old and this made my left eye so weak, it bows out to the right eye. I can switch back and forth but i’ve never seen through both eyes at the same time.

    I also never even knew there was anything wrong until I was 21 and diagnosed with no depth perception. I can’t tell you how happy this made me! I remember my first 3-D movie I sat in the theater switching between the red version and the blue… I sounded very droll when I told the other kids that I wasn’t impressed!

    I thought I was retarded. In school, I flailed my arms like a bird, trying to catch a ball. Stairs were a dice toss –whether I walked or fell down them. I broke a lot of things and hit many things parking my car. I knew my first husband was a keeper when he took an autobody repair class to repair the front of his truck after I hit the same brick wall 5 times and finally buckled the hood.

    Not sure these would help me but I’ve often wondered what a 3-D world was like…

  27. I love the way this looks and I love the very idea of it, nothing is better than cool borg style! I work at http://www.playgroundentertainmentgroup.com now. But when I was a small boy watching star trek the next generation I always wanted to be like a borg as dorky as it was.

  28. jimceastman says:

    This is a brilliant invention! Cool and very helpful. Thanks for sharing. A truly, interesting and enjoyable Post!

  29. Wow… very interesting invention :D

  30. motten05 says:

    Wow, what a cool invention!

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