VR Goggles Help Legally Blind See With 20/20 Vision

Reported on by WSAW News Channel 7 at Hastreiter Industries

Tia Bertz is a recent graduate of Northcentral Technical College. She interned at Hastreiter Industries in Marshfield [and now works there full time].

"Tia is someone we've known for a few years," said Ken Hastreiter, president of Hastreiter Industries, "and have seen her develop her interest into manufacturing, 3D printing."

In a field where precise measurements, down to the thousandths of an inch is key, Tia is legally blind.

"I was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia," Bertz said.

She can only see a couple of inches in front of her. But she's always visualized things in a 3D world. At a tech show in Chicago, Tia stumbled across a booth with a virtual reality headset.

"I was in this virtual environment and I got this part assembled and the person running this demo was just blown away," said Bertz.

"We didn't know how to fit her into the manufacturing facility with limited sight," said Hastreiter.

With the help of some government grants, Tia was fitted for V.R. goggles with a tiny camera on it that gives her 20/20 vision.

"I can actually see the tool in the machine," she said while demonstrating the headset.

"We got to see Tia, for the first time, reading something on the wall across the room," Hastreiter said.

"Once I figured out what I could do I was just blown away. Surprised and really excited," said a smiling Bertz.

Tia might be the first to use virtual reality [goggles for disability accessibility] in the world of manufacturing, but she doesn't want to be the only one.

"I want to be an advocate for visually impaired people and tell them that manufacturing is a possibility for them to go in to with the right technology."