VR headsets could help restore eyesight to those with macular degeneration

A virtual reality helmet allows those with macular degeneration, which causes blind spots in the central vision, to expand their peripheral vision so that the gaps in their vision appear much smaller.

A new virtual reality helmet could help people who are legally blind to see again.

The portable technology is close to what the user is looking at, eclipsing the large blind spots caused by macular degeneration, so that the spots disappear.

The creators of IrisVision, created by Johns Hopkins scientists, The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and UC Berkeley, say it has helped restore the visual acuity of people from 20/400 to as high as 20/30.

They expect this technology to be a less expensive and easier way of treatment for people suffering from a multitude of vision disorders.

A virtual reality helmet allows those with macular degeneration, which causes blind spots in the central vision, to expand their peripheral vision so that the gaps in their vision appear much smaller.

A virtual reality helmet allows those with macular degeneration, which causes blind spots in the central vision, to expand their peripheral vision so that the gaps in their vision appear much smaller.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in people 50 years of age or older, according to the National Eye Institute.

The condition occurs when the macula, an oval area near the center of the retina that allows clear vision, is damaged.

Victims will experience blurred vision or even "blind spots" in their central vision that may get larger.

Treatments include medications that prevent new blood vessels from forming in the eye, as well as laser therapies that destroy abnormal blood vessels.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 9.1 million Americans have early AMD and 2.1 million older than 50 have late AMD, which is a stage of severe vision loss.

That number is expected to increase as the proportion of the US population increases. UU Over 65 years old continue to grow.

Those with AMD have difficulty doing daily activities, either reading or having a conversation with someone.

IrisVision works by using software loaded on a Samsung Galaxy S7 or S8 to record what the user is viewing and display the image in real time.

The user can also zoom in on a specific part of the image without distorting his peripheral vision, which allows the blind spots to shrink to the point of disappearing.

The technology also allows the user to easily move from reading a newspaper to focusing on a person's face without having to adjust any settings.

"Everything around the blind spot looks, say, 10 times larger, so the relative size of the blind spot looks much smaller than the brain can no longer perceive," said Tom Perski at IrisVision, which has severe macular degeneration. . Scientific.

He told the magazine that his blind spots would not allow him to see his wife's head if he were within walking distance.

But the headphones make the blind spots become much smaller, the point where it covers only a part of his wife's face.

"If I just move that blind spot, I can see his face and his expression and everything," Perski said.

David Rhew, medical director of Samsung Electronics America, told New Scientist that the company conducted a product test in which 30 people used the handset for two weeks.

At the beginning and end of the test, participants answered questions about how well they could see while performing their daily activities.

"Now they can read, they can watch television, they can interact with people, they can do gardening, they can do things that for years were not even a consideration," he said.

Rhew said the technology helped dramatically improve the visual acuity of the participants.

Before using the headphones, participants had an average vision of 20/400, which means they had to be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal vision can see at 400 feet, and it is also considered blindness legal. .

"With the use of this technology it improved to 20/30, which is quite close to the 20/20 vision," he said.

The IrisVision system costs $ 2500 and comes with a headset and a Samsung Galaxy S7 or S8 smartphone with the software already installed.

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