Device could help people with moderate visual impairment

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A device developed in Spain could help people with moderate visual impairment, particularly those who have difficulty perceiving the full extent of their surroundings.

‘This device is aimed at people who would bump into everything that they fail to see because of their loss of visual field, caused by glaucoma, retinal pathologies and so on,’ said project leader Prof Ricardo Vergaz of Carlos III University in Madrid’s (UC3M) Electronics Technology Department.

According to a statement, the prototype was developed using a head-mounted display (HMD) device — a device that includes two cameras through which images are processed.

An algorithm developed by the researchers allows the system to determine the distance and outline of objects and communicates the information to the user in real time using two micro screens, highlighting the silhouette of the elements in the scene and varying the colours according to their distance.

‘It detects objects and people who move within the visual field that a person with no visual pathologies would have. Very often the patient does not detect them due to problems of contrast’, said Vergaz. ‘The information regarding depth is what is most missed by patients who use this type of technical aid.’

Currently the invention is being tested using ‘intelligent’ goggles in collaboration with the Institute for Applied Ophthalmology at the Universidad de Valladolid, where clinical tests are being carried out with a view to the device’s validation and applicability.

‘After testing the device on a representative sample population of patients who could use it, the IOBA will inform us of its final results at the end of this year; this will allow us to evaluate the success and validity of its performance and then improve it’, said Vergaz.

The final objective is to improve the ergonomics of the device, which is being designed to fit into a user’s pocket.