Low Vision News

For low vision specialists and those who consult them

What is the future of assistive devices for the visually impaired?

At the forthcoming Envision conference, a pre-conference discussion will be held on “Current Trends in Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation Research: Where and How Should Scientists be Focusing their Efforts?”. Unfortunately I will not be at Envision until after this session has taken place, but it led me to think about what may happen in the future with assistive devices for people with low vision. Here’s what I came up with…

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from people in clinic is “I walk past my friends in the street and they think I’m being rude because I don’t recognise them”. It may sound a bit science-fictiony but I see no reason why we can’t have a small assistive device which identifies faces and communicates to the user who the face belongs to: “I think David is walking towards you, on the right hand side”. The new version of iPhoto on the Mac has a pretty good face identification system which appears to have some Bayesian learning incorporated: I am sure this technology could be adapted to become a low vision aid.

The possibilities are endless. It could include some expression recognition software, and could be linked to your diary on your iPhone: how about a camera mounted on specs with an earphone saying “David is coming towards you. It was his birthday last week. He looks pretty mad.” Then the user can choose whether to pretend not to walk past David or not!

I’m sure readers have other ideas for the future of devices for low vision users…why not share your thoughts here. Who knows, maybe your ideas will become reality!

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