AReye-helping people with visual field loss through the use of augmented reality
AReye are improving the quality of life for people with visual field loss by using augmented reality to increase visual awareness, facilitate independence and enable safer mobility.
The rapidly advancing functionality in consumer-available AR (augmented reality) smart glasses has opened the market for potential sight aids for individuals who have visual field-loss. The needs of this impairment differ from those of reduced acuity, with many of the available market solutions being safe to use when seated.
AReye’s core technology is a software solution that maps an individual user’s blind field to provide an enhanced live stream about content from their blind field into their sighted field which AReye have coined as the ‘support-window.’
A visual field describes everything seen when looking straight ahead. Visual field-loss is when a part of that view is impaired. Visual field loss is a common consequence of a number of conditions, including stroke, tumour, brain trauma, and eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma. It has a significant impact on quality of life, reducing mobility and independence, creating difficulties locating and interacting with objects, and making those affected vulnerable to hazards such as traffic and obstacles.
Every year, 152, 000 people in the UK suffer from a stroke, and there are 13.7 million first-time cases across the globe each year. Loss of vision is one of the most common and most debilitating consequences of stroke, second only to weakness in the arms or legs.
Unfortunately care for people with visual field loss is extremely limited, and people with visual field-loss experience significant mood disorders, loss of independence, impaired mobility and increase in falls, but get little to no formal support.
AReye’s mission is to help improve the quality of life for people with visual field loss by using augmented reality to increase visual awareness, facilitate independence and enable safer mobility.
The team behind AReye includes co-inventors Prof. Paul Hibbard and Dr. Jordi Asher from the University of Essex. EIRA awarded funding to AReye in December 2018 to begin the research required to scope the viability of this solution. Further funding was secured from the University of Essex in March 2020 to develop a prototype for the research, with the aim of extending user testing to individuals with visual field loss.
The approach to improving visual field loss was a software platform built for use within Augmented Reality headsets, which provided the user with a live stream from their blind field. The software identified the location of each user’s missing field of view and identified the optimal position for the support window in 3D space. Whilst still undergoing user testing with the target audience in natural environments, initial research has provided encouraging results.
The project’s concept was successfully tested on normally sighted individuals with a simulated blind-field in controlled laboratory tasks, and now has the solution in a simulated virtual environment for which AReye will be shortly launching user-testing with the visually impaired.
Prof. Paul Hibbard said:
“This project has grown from our research into understanding the human visual system, and into the use of virtual and augmented reality. Support from EIRA means that we have able to develop and evaluate our technology, so that we are now assessing its effectiveness with potential users.”
Dr. Jordi Asher, whose thesis was the basis of this project said:
“Aftercare for survivors with visual field loss is limited, the impact to daily life and the loss of independence is severe. There is no treatment for visual field loss and damage is most often permanent. The recent advances in consumer and augmented reality creates a potential method to improve the quality of life for these individuals and the proof of concept funding from EIRA has been instrumental in moving our project from an idea to a functioning prototype.”
You can find out more about how EIRA has supported this project from AReye’s co-creators Dr. Jordi Asher and Prof. Paul Hibbard.
You can watch this here or in the window below.
The University of Essex has filed a patent covering this technology and AReye are currently looking for suitable commercialisation partners.
Using machine learning algorithms AReye will make future revisions to the core software, provide visual, audio, or tactile cues and a rendered “mini-map” to highlight hazards.
Going forwards, once the invention has been tested and is successful AReye would also like to make it as accessible as possible and offer training for potential users to learn how to use this system.
A news segment on BBC East on Wednesday, 13th October 2021
An article on Optometry Today
A video animation on how the technology will work
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