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Scots war veteran sees wife again thanks to hi-tech glasses

John Hutchinson, 90, was able to trial the 'smart specs' designed by Oxford University.

John Hutchinson can see again.
John Hutchinson can see again. SWNS

A war veteran has spoken of the moment he got his sight back and saw his wife for the first time in a decade thanks to state-of-the-art glasses.

John Hutchinson, 90, was in the British Army for 18 years in the airborne divisions but became blind after tropical parasites got into his bloodstream and attacked the retina.

Mr Hutchinson, from Largs, North Ayrshire, was in Africa at the time helping set up a disability centre for refugees for the UN and was rated 97 per cent blind.

But two years ago he found out about the Smart Specs scheme: an Oxford University project to create electronic spectacles which improve the vision of the partially sighted.

He was one of the lucky people chosen to trial the prototype in the UK.

After trying the glasses, the pensioner was stunned when his vision was restored and he saw his wife for the first time in a decade.

He said: "The frame of the headset has at least one if not two cameras taking pictures ahead of you and around your neck.

"It shows pictures of what is directly in front of you, and somehow it comes back to you via the glasses in front of you like a mini TV screen.

"It is not exactly as you would normally expect, as it is a small screen, but it is enough to see what is ahead and recognise people. It really is remarkable given what you can see.

"I could see my wife clearly for the first time in years. It is a complete revolution - you can also see obstacles in front of you."

Mr Hutchinson, who has a passion for the ukulele and is a familiar character around the town with his faithful guide dog Bracken, added: "Obviously it was a bit of a shock.

'I could see my wife clearly for the first time in years. It is a complete revolution - you can also see obstacles in front of you.'
John Hutchinson

"But I was extremely happy when I saw her. I quickly rushed and gave her a big hug.

"She was absolutely delighted, it was just a great relief and although I get a lot of support at home, it was just nice to finally see my wife.''

Since being blinded, he described his sight as "like looking through a pot of glue", while the prognosis is for it to get worse.

Mr Hutchinson only had the specs for a three-week trial but he hopes to be able to afford the glasses when they are released.

The Royal British Legion Largs branch has already stepped in to provide £1000 towards the £2500 cost of the spectacles.

"I was part of a research team with Oxford University and I was effectively the guinea pig and got the original invention - the prototype," Mr Hutchinson explained.

"I had to send them back for further research.

"The whole project was recently completed and it has been handed over to a commercial firm.

"I have various ideas in order to raise funds. I have even discussed flying around Britain in a microlight aircraft.

"But I am very grateful to the Royal British Legion for helping me in this way and hopefully I can raise the rest of the funds."

He is the Vice President of the Royal British Legion Largs branch and has a radio link-up with other blind veterans with a broadcasting suite in his back garden.

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