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On Tech & Vision With Dr. Cal Roberts

Jul 1, 2021

This podcast is about big ideas on how technology is making life better for people with vision loss.

Today’s big idea is how the technology used in instruments that extend human vision to space is being relied on by vision technology developers in devices that help people with vision loss in everyday tasks here on Earth. Using substitute senses has allowed scientists across many fields to continue their work without the use of sight. The eSight is one such device that stimulates the remaining functioning vision to improve the quality of life for users. Dr. Roberts speaks with Charles Lim about the development of the device, the principles behind how it works, and the motivation for future improvements.


The Big Takeaways:

  • Astronomers and other scientists who are blind can continue to make meaningful contributions to their field by using substitute senses — even discovering things unseen to the human eye — especially in fields where instruments do most of the heavy lifting.
  • eSight is designed to help people with low vision; they’ve found that with the right stimuli, they can leverage the dormant portions of the eye that still have some function. It is a wearable and mobile device that maximizes the visual information provided to the brain to naturally compensate for gaps in the user’s vision.
  • As they continue to develop the device, some of the most important factors are making sure it’s comfortable, accessible for a wide range of wearers, has a long battery life, and is future-proof.
  • The ability to possibly change individual lives, and to create a more accessible world, is one of the most motivating reasons behind this technology advancement and continues to drive the developments that are on the horizon for eSight.



  • “What it all means is how do we leverage the technology advances in cameras, image, sensors, and processing to allow...our users to enhance their vision through more information.” - Charles Lim, Chief Technology Officer, eSight
  • “What we did is that we converted into sound data from a gamma-ray burst. We were able to listen to small variations in the data that were not visible to the human eye.” — Dr. Wanda Diaz Merced, Astronomer
  • “Astronomers have realized that you can learn a lot about the Universe by developing instruments that can be extensions of our own senses.” — Dr. Bernard Beck-Winchatz, Astrophysicist
  • “I dream of a future where eSight can really become a natural extension of our users’ vision.” — Dr. Charles Lim


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Guest Bios:

Charles Lim, Chief Technology Officer, eSight

  • Charles Lim is a global technology expert with 20 years of experience and a proven record of scaling businesses. Previously, Charles worked in progressive global senior leadership positions with IMAX where he led strategy, operations and business development during a key moment in the company’s rapid growth stage.  He’s also acted as a consultant with MaRS Discovery District where he worked closely with technology startups to ensure their success and was a key player in building the MaRS technology innovation ecosystem. Charles has successfully led engineering teams developing leading-edge fiber optic broadcast systems, consumer electronics and aerospace technologies that earned him multiple awards including the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Award of Excellence. Charles holds a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering and Master of Electrical and Computer Engineering from Ryerson University, and an MBA from Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He has also completed executive-level courses at Harvard Business School.

Dr. Bernard Beck-Winchatz, Professor, DePaul University

  • Interim Director of STEM Center, Professor of Physics & Astrophysics, Graduate Program Director of Physics & Astrophysics; Campus Director of Illinois Space Grant Consortium

Wanda Díaz-Merced

  • Wanda Díaz-Merced is an astronomer best known for using sonification to turn large data sets into audible sound. She currently works at the South African observatory's Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) leading the project AstroSense. As someone who has lost their eyesight, she is a leader in increasing equality of access to astronomy and using audible sound to study astrophysical data. Wanda has been included in the list of the 7 most trailblazing women in science by the BBC.


Host Bio:

Dr. Calvin W. Roberts

  • Calvin W. Roberts, MD, is President and Chief Executive Officer of Lighthouse Guild, the leading organization dedicated to providing exceptional services that inspire people who are visually impaired to attain their goals. Dr. Roberts has a unique blend of academic, clinical, business, and hands-on product development experience. Dr. Roberts is a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College. He was formerly Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Eye Care, at Bausch Health Companies where he coordinated global development and research efforts across their vision care, pharmaceutical, and surgical business units. As a practicing ophthalmologist from 1982 to 2008, he performed more than 10,000 cataract surgeries as well as 5,000 refractive and other corneal surgeries. He is credited with developing surgical therapies, over-the-counter products for vision care, prescription ocular therapeutics, and innovative treatment regimens. He also holds patents on the wide-field specular microscope and has done extensive research on ophthalmic non-steroidals and postoperative cystoid macular edema. Dr. Roberts has co-founded a specialty pharmaceutical company and is a frequent industry lecturer and author. He currently serves as an Independent Director on multiple corporate boards and has served as a consultant to Allergan, Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis. A graduate of Princeton University and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, Dr. Roberts completed his internship and ophthalmology residency at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York. He also completed cornea fellowships at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston.