Video camera and vibrating wristband system can reduce collisions for the visually impaired

A new chest-mounted video camera and vibrating wristband system could reduce the number of collisions for visually impaired people by 37 percent, the developers claim.

A new study found that the device works for the blind, visually impaired and people who use a long cane or guide dog compared to mobility aids alone.

There are around 360,000 people in the UK registered as blind or partially sighted, according to the NHS, with long canes and guide dogs being the most common assistants.

Visually impaired people have a significantly higher risk of collisions and falls, says Mass General Brigham’s team in Boston, Massachusetts.

While some electronic devices are marketed direct-to-consumer and claim to alert wearers to surrounding objects, there is so far little evidence of their effectiveness in everyday mobility environments.

The team found that a chest-mounted early warning device can reduce collisions and falls by up to 37 percent in people with visual impairments.

This is one of the first randomized controlled trials looking at the potential benefit of the devices in the home and outside of a controlled lab environment.

A close-up of the image processing unit of the portable collision device. A new study found the device works for the blind, visually impaired and people using a long cane or guide dog compared to mobility aids alone

“Independent travel is an essential part of everyday life for many visually impaired people, but they are at greater risk of encountering obstacles when walking alone,” said Gang Luo, author of the study.

“While many blind people use long canes to detect obstacles, collision risks are not completely eliminated,” said Luo, also an associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.

“We wanted to develop and test a device that could enhance these everyday mobility aids and further improve their safety.”

The experimental device and data recording unit were enclosed in a sling backpack with a chest-mounted wide-angle camera on the strap and two Bluetooth-connected wristbands worn by the user.

The camera is connected to a processing unit that captures images and analyzes collision risk based on the relative movement of incoming and surrounding objects in the camera’s field of view.

If an impending collision is detected on the left or right side, the corresponding wristband will vibrate; in a head-on collision, both wristbands vibrate.

Unlike other devices that simply warn of nearby objects regardless of whether a user moves toward the objects, this device analyzes relative motion.

It only warns of approaching obstacles that pose a collision risk and ignores objects that are not on a collision course.

The new study included 31 blind and partially sighted adults who use either a long cane or a guide dog (or both) to aid their daily mobility.

After being trained to use the device, they used it at home in conjunction with their typical mobility device for about a month.

It was set to randomly switch between active mode, in which users could receive vibration alerts for impending collisions, and silent mode, in which the device was still processing and recording images, but not giving users collision warnings

The silent mode is similar to the placebo state in many clinical studies.

Gang Luo, PhD, shows the camera on the belt of a wearable crash device.  The camera is connected to a processing unit that captures images and analyzes collision risk based on the relative movement of incoming and surrounding objects

Gang Luo, PhD, shows the camera on the belt of a wearable crash device. The camera is connected to a processing unit that captures images and analyzes collision risk based on the relative movement of incoming and surrounding objects

Scientists discover ‘off switch’ for vision loss in premature babies and diabetics that prevents blood vessels from growing across the retina

Vision loss in premature babies and diabetes caused by excess blood vessels could be a thing of the past thanks to a chemical ‘off switch’ discovered by scientists.

Researchers at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation analyzed sets of blood vessels that naturally rapidly deteriorate and disappear in mice shortly after birth.

They found that levels of a cellular protein crashed when mice experienced normal blood vessel loss in the eyes — this protein is also present in humans.

The team says turning off these proteins could act as an “off switch” to reverse vision loss and eye conditions common in premature babies and adults.

“It’s possible that even patients with advanced disease progression could see their fortunes change,” said Courtney Griffin, the study’s lead author.

The wearers and researchers would not know when the device modes changed during testing and analysis.

The effectiveness of the device was evaluated by comparing collision incidents that occurred during active and silent mode.

The study found that the crash rate in active mode was 37 percent lower than in silent mode.

Long canes are one of the most effective and affordable mobility aids for a person who is blind or partially sighted, but they have limitations.

Walking sticks mainly detect hazards on the ground that are within reach; however, dangers above ground are often overlooked.

In addition, the range of long pole sweeping can be limited in crowded environments, such as cities, to avoid hitting nearby pedestrians.

Guide dogs are highly effective, but hard to come by and prohibitively expensive for many, as guide dog training typically costs $45,000-$60,000.

Alex Bowers, PhD, a clinical researcher and one of the paper’s co-authors, said the video recording of the study also provides rich data on the mobility of people with visual impairments in everyday life.

This, in turn, could help researchers better understand the challenges of collision detection for people with visual impairments.

“Long canes are still very useful and cost-effective tools that work well in many situations, but we hope that a portable device like this can fill in the gaps that the cane could be missing,” said Dr. bowers.

Adding it would provide a more affordable, easier-to-obtain option than a guide dog.

Then they hope to take advantage of continued improvements in mobile processing power and cameras to make the device smaller and more cosmetically appealing.

With additional funding, the team hopes such a device can be submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval so that it can be commercially available for people with low vision.

“Dr. Luo and his team are instrumental in supporting and ensuring travel independence in our visually impaired community,” said Joan W. Miller, MD, chief of ophthalmology at Mass Eye and Ear, Massachusetts General Hospital.

The findings are published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

A cure for blindness? Man, 58, who began losing his sight 40 YEARS ago has partially restored his sight through groundbreaking genetic treatment that pulses light into the eyes

A blind man who started losing his sight 40 years ago has had his sight partially restored in one eye thanks to a new genetic treatment and special glasses.

The therapy worked by genetically modifying cells in one of the patient’s eyes so that they responded to pulses of light delivered through special glasses.

A camera on the glasses translated a view of the real world into amber pulses of light, from which the man could recognize, count and locate objects in front of him.

However, the regained sight appears as black and white – and is not detailed enough to read a book or recognize someone else’s face, for example.

The 58-year-old from Brittany, France, lost his eyesight to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a disease that causes the light-sensitive cells in the eye to gradually stop working.

RP is the most common hereditary eye condition and is estimated to affect about one in 4,000 people in the UK.

Until now, the only approved treatment for RP was a type of gene replacement therapy that was known to only work in an early form of the disease.

The team said the optogenetic therapy may be helpful in restoring vision in patients with RP-related blindness, but more studies are needed to investigate its effectiveness.

However, such treatment could be available to the public within five years, they claimed.

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