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Low Vision Innovations That Eye-Care Specialists Can Recommend

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Low Vision Innovations That Eye-Care Specialists Can Recommend

Low vision or vision impairment can be caused by several factors such as genetic disorders, injury, and eye diseases, and although 80% of vision impairment globally is claimed to be preventable or curable (WHO Report), in some cases the damages can be uncorrectable.

Contemporary research on vision care and health focuses on identifying best practices of diagnosing, preventing, and treating potentially blinding vision problems before they result in debilitating low vision. Treatments such as gene and cell-based therapies, retinal implants, electronic prosthetic chips are certainly significant contributions in the vision-care sector but are still in stages of further development and yet in their experimental phases.

Low vision or blindness has far grave consequences aside from vision impairment, it affects the mental health, can cause feelings of loss of independence, for the vision-impaired community hence all the stakeholders in society must contribute towards facilitating the vision impaired to perform daily tasks and undergo vision rehabilitation simultaneously to make the most of remaining vision.

The more serious eye conditions such as cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration are the primary causes of low vision and blindness in the U.S. Cataract is regarded as the leading cause of low vision worldwide (WHO) whereas glaucoma ranks as the leading eye condition that results in blindness in the U.S as reported by American Optometric Association.

Importance of Low Vision Devices for Blind in the United States

Technology has opened a whole new world globally by making life easier for everyone especially those with visual impairment or vision loss through the advent of low vision innovations. It is through the constant evolution of communications technology and an inclusive approach of the developers that allows the vision-impaired community to write notes or documents, browse the internet, watch their favorite movies, and even decorate a Christmas tree.

Though each low vision device is best suited for specific tasks but has enabled the low vision community to once again take control of their lives. These can be categorized into optical and non-optical vision aids, CCTV low vision aids, and magnifying systems.

Low vision optical devices consist of handheld and stand magnifiers, special magnifying reading glasses, and even small telescopes whereas non-optical devices are generally comprised of reading stands, glare control sunglasses, and typoscopes. Electronic magnifying systems in most cases feature a camera system that magnifies and displays a visual on a monitor screen, used for reading books, writing grocery lists, and much more, more commonly known as CCTV low vision aids.

Screen reading software and screen magnification software are tools that have brought back the ability to read and write for the vision impaired, it allows them to see printed documents, pictures, etc through enhancing their leftover vision.

Other components include accessibility web extensions that offer screen readers, color contrast options, text-to-speech features. Such innovative technology is referred to as assistive technology – and it continues to evolve and remove visual obstacles for people with vision loss and low vision.

In other words, low vision aids and assistive technology have made daily tasks simple for the visually impaired which previously may have required the assistance of another person can now be done effectively and efficiently. Since the list of new interesting innovations covering all types and brands can be too lengthy let’s have a look at some of the breakthrough low vision devices that are removing countless barriers for the vision-impaired community.

Medically Approved Breakthrough Innovations for Low Vision Community

  • IrisVision:

    IrisVision is one of the leading wearable assistive technology solutions in the United States. Registered with the FDA as a Class-1 medical device, using a combination of virtual reality and smartphone technology – IrisVision aims to help the visually impaired, low vision community suffering from eye problems like macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy (DR), retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

    These breakthrough low vision glasses offer up to 70 degrees field of view with a customizable magnification up to 14X to the user providing a more realistic experience. It features customizable control settings, designed for a user-friendly experience as well as several viewing modes to cater for all types of visual limitations and use case scenarios; like the ‘Scene Mode’, ‘Bioptic Mode’, ‘TV Mode’, multiple reading modes.  One of the popular features that ‘Iris Reader’ enables the low vision individuals to enjoy the gift of reading using contemporary OCR (optical character recognition) techniques, ‘Iris Reader’ reads the desired text out loud for you

    With the IrisVision Assistant’, users can enjoy a totally “hands-free”; for instance, asking ‘IrisVision Assistant’ to “Magnify 10x” and it will provide you with a 10x zoom for an image you’ve selected. IrisVision is a single solution with multiple limitless utilities for the vision impaired, impacting their daily lives enabling them to read, write watch television, paint, video chat and see the faces of their loved ones.

    The IrisVision experience comes with 100% free screening, training, and remote support along with a 30-day refund policy 

    wearable low vision solution IrisVision

  • WeWALK:

    A white cane is one of the most commonly used navigation tools developed for the blind and visually impaired. Their utility lies in the taps that provide information for legally blind or visually impaired individuals by helping identify steps and detect obstacles.

    WeWALK is one such white cane but with an innovative blend. This cane features a touchpad, a speaker, and is foldable – it uses ultrasound to detect obstacles that are above chest level like stop signs, tree branches, telephone poles and alerts the user through vibration. It also provides a mobile app with an accessible interface, through which users can save locations, an intercom to help find your WeWALK cane, etc. Smartphone users can simply connect the WeWalk smart wirelessly.

    The cane’s touchpad has several utilities and features such as enabling users to connect with the nearest public transportation and that’s not all, it’ll even guide about the number of the bus that’s coming, as well as its estimated time of arrival.

    The battery is also a remarkable component as it provides 5 hours of usage time with a fully charged battery and contains a micro USB input that can also be used as a charging port.

    With such types of innovations dominating the market, visually impaired and legally blind users can choose from a variety of innovative low vision solution options to choose from.

    smart walking cane for the visually impaired and low vision

  • Horus:

    Horus – simply put is a virtual assistant aimed at facilitating the visually impaired. Its primary role is to translate visual information into audible feedback. Horus consists of a pocket unit with a headset that uses real-time audio to map out the world for its users.

    The device comes with an in-build camera used to read text, detect visual images, recognize faces, and identify objects all through the application of deep learning.

    Deep learning comes into use as soon as users begin to use HORUS. The system sends a prompt as soon as the user comes closer to any object or a person. It does so by scanning anything appearing in its field of vision, it uses that information to cross-check through its internal database.

    If an undefined or unknowing object or visual appears and is undetectable by the system, it will alert the user to identify it and record the information. So in practicality, the more Horus is used, the more efficient it’ll get.

    This information gathering and recording are done using the camera which is transferred to the processor.

     wearable device developed to assist blind and visually impaired

  • Tactile:

    The idea conceived within the halls of MIT – Tactile aims to remove reading barriers for the legally blind and visually impaired and make the printed text more accessible. Tactile is a device that examines printed pages to scan the information and text and translates it into Braille.

    This low-cost, portable handheld device works with an app – once the text has been digitally scanning, the Tactile device will provide the user with a voice-over transcription.

    The founders aim to feature eighteen cells, though its current capacity comprises six cells in a compact device in an affordable price range.

    The device can also be used in situations where audio might not be a viable option such as meetings, a cinema hall, or a public space. In such cases, it can be more convenient to read rather than hear the audio translation.

    Tactile’s usage adds value to the everyday life of a vision-impaired individual, facilitating them to read newspapers, menus, grocery lists, expense bills, and books that aren’t available online.

As the population continues to grow, the prevalence of low vision is expected to double two-fold. Subsequently, there is a dire need for more low vision innovations for the vision impaired than those undergoing vision-rehabilitation.

With the fast-paced technology sector taking over the global markets, mainstream devices like smartphones and tablets, have incorporated accessibility features also serving as low vision innovations.

Though there are many initiatives been taken to promote innovative low vision solutions such as The Low Vision and Blindness Rehabilitation program at the National Eye Institute (NEI) that facilitates new low vision technologies and rehabilitation strategies aimed at minimizing the impact of visual impairment and researches covering vision science by many of the NEI-funded scientists, there is yet more to be done to develop adaptive devices that can help visually impaired individuals interact with their environment, helping them lead an independent life.