assistive technology for low vision

Researchers create augmented reality glasses as a new assistive technology for low vision.

Retinitis pigmentosa is an eye condition that reduces vision. When severe, the condition can lead to poor peripheral vision resulting in an inability to interpret relative distance. Impaired vision can lower quality of life and cause difficulty in accomplishing daily tasks. In most cases, successful navigation is achieved through an aid, usually a cane or a seeing eye dog. Virtual reality vision aids have been tested previously but have been difficult to commercialize due to poor user friendliness and blocked residual vision. A study published in Nature presented augmented reality glasses and tested their function as a form of assistive technology for low vision.

The device, labeled a Microsoft Hololens, was coupled with the Microsoft Mixed Reality Toolkit (MMRT) for testing. The device performed as a low vision aid for patients of retinitis pigmentosa. Ten patients were provided the device for assistance with mobility and avoiding obstacles. The augmented reality glasses enhanced vision by projecting bright colours, that corresponded to the obstacles, onto the retina of the eye. The patients were recorded as they navigated through the obstacles. The researchers recorded collisions and the time it took for participants to complete the course.

According to the study, patients expressed improved vision using the augmented reality glasses. Mobility was increased by 50% and grasping of nearby objects was improved by 70%. The augmented reality glasses did not significantly impact on the time taken to complete the course. Patients with retinitis pigmentosa have difficulty with vision, particularly in darkness. The device successfully improved vision in low light in the tested patients.

According to the researchers, the augmented reality glasses require further testing to resolve technical issues but may be commercially implemented in the near future. This study claims to be the first to showcase vision improvement in retinitis pigmentosa patients using an augmented reality aid in a Food and Drug Administration validated experiment.

Written by Shrishti Ahuja, BSc


Angelopoulos, A.N., Ameri, H., Mitra, D. et al. Enhanced Depth Navigation Through Augmented Reality Depth Mapping in Patients with Low Vision. Sci Rep 9, 11230 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41598-019-47397-w

Keckmedusc. (n.d.). Augmented reality glasses may help people with low vision better navigate their environment. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-08/uosc-arg082219.php.

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