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while killing time waiting for a conference call I found this

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=2065586

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - A legally blind poet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has designed a "seeing machine" that allows people with limited vision to see faces of friends, read or study the layouts of buildings they intend to visit.
The device, which MIT estimates costs about $4,000 (2,100 pounds) to manufacture, plugs into a personal computer and uses light-emitting diodes to project selected images into a person's eye, allowing visually impaired users to see words or pictures.


And

In perhaps its most practical application, a visually impaired person can use the seeing machine to study a three-dimensional computer rendering of a room or public place in order to familiarize themselves prior to traveling there. To use the machine, one looks through an eyepiece and navigates through the image using a joystick in an effect similar to playing a video game.

A small step, but I think perhaps an important one.
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