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Innovative device gives visually impaired big boost
Researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) in Spain have developed an innovative device that allows people with moderate visual impairment to be better aware of obstacles that lie in their path.
'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, etc.,' said Professor Ricardo Vergaz from the Department of Electronics Technology at UC3M.
The team created the prototype by utilising a head-mounted display (HMD) device, which is a virtual reality helmet equipped with two cameras. A tiny computer is attached to the cameras, processing all the images it receives.
The researchers also produced an algorithm, which enables the system to calculate the distance and outline of the objects. The device then conveys the pertinent information to the user in real time via two micro screens. What the user sees is the silhouette of the elements as well as the diverse colours based on their distance.
'It detects objects and people who move within the visual field that a person with no visual pathologies would have,' Professor Vergaz says. 'Very often the patient does not detect them due to problems of contrast. The information regarding depth is what is most missed by patients who use this type of technical aid.'
The UC3M team is working together with a group from the Instituto de Oftalmología Aplicada at Universidad de Valladolid in Spain to test the device, using 'intelligent' goggles. Their work is focusing on validating and assessing the applicability of the device.
'After testing the device on a representative sample population of patients who could use it, the Instituto de Oftalmología Aplicada will inform us of their final results at the end of this year,' Professor Vergaz said. 'This will allow us to evaluate the success and validity of its performance and then improve it.'
Ultimately, the researchers seek to optimise the ergonomics of the device to ensure the user is not inconvenienced by wearing the goggles while they carry the tiny, lightweight electronic mechanism.
Experts say this latest development is helping drive the design, development and innovation of novel technologies that are geared for people with impairments. The team is also working on another innovative device that encompasses a virtual magnifying glass.
'The main novelty lies in the type of algorithm that has been developed, which will help the user to get lost less frequently while reading a text,' Professor Vergaz said.
According to the team, reading will be made easier for users, increasing their ability to avoid losing lines and textual references. The content being read is controlled on a screen, whether it is on a computer, tablet computer or mobile phone. Individuals suffering from loss of vision in the central field, including those with age-related macular degeneration, will benefit from this innovative device.
It should be noted that the pathologies assessed with the devices do not lead to total blindness.
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Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M):
Data Source Provider:Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M)
Document of reference:Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M)
Subject index:Coordination, Cooperation,Materials Technology,Scientific Research,Other Technology
Programme Acronym: MS-E C
Record control number (RCN):34665