AR Glasses Could Help Visually Impaired

Sep 9, 2020

2 min read

Augmented Reality glasses enhance mobility and function in patients who have difficulty with peripheral vision or seeing in low light.

In a new study of patients with retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited degenerative eye disease that results in poor vision, Keck School of Medicine of USC researchers found that adapted augmented reality (AR) glasses can improve patients’ mobility by 50% and grasp performance by 70%.

Existing wearable VR technologies for low vision are limited and difficult to use, claimed the researchers.

The new AR glasses leverage assistive technology to improve but not replace the natural senses. The system is designed to project bright colours corresponding to surrounding obstacles onto the user’s retinas.

Simultaneous location and mapping were used to enable the glasses to render the three-dimensional (3D) structure of a room in real-time.

Current wearable low vision technologies using virtual reality are limited and can be difficult to use or require patients to undergo extensive training.

Using a different approach- employing assistive technology to enhance, not replace, natural senses -; our team adapted AR glasses that project bright colors onto patients’ retinas, corresponding to nearby obstacles.”

Mark Humayun, MD, PhD, director of the USC Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Institute for Biomedical Therapeutics, codirector of the USC Roski Eye Institute and University Professor of Ophthalmology at the Keck School

Study participants were asked to grasp a wooden peg located behind four other pegs in front of a black background without touching the other pegs. Those assisted by augmented reality performed 70% better at the task.

Study project lead at the Keck School of Medicine, Anastasios Nikolas Angelopoulos, highlighted that patients with RP often have difficulty seeing in low light, which makes it difficult to identify obstacles and grasp objects.

“Through the use of augmented reality, we aim to improve the quality of life for low vision patients by increasing their confidence in performing basic tasks, ultimately allowing them to live more independent lives,” he said.

The augmented reality system overlays objects with a wireframe composed of four bright, distinct colours.

This gives users visual cues that help those with restricted peripheral vision to interpret complex environments.

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