Low vision is mostly common in the elderly. It is a bad sight condition that leaves you stranded on the borders of blindness. You are not completely blind but you see so little that it robs you of your freedom to move and live independently.
As we all know, being old comes with its own endeavors and dealing with a low vision condition makes it next to impossible. Because it’s not just losing the ability to see, the hefty medications, expensive treatments and a huge pile of side effects like nausea, headaches, diabetes etc ride along and completely devour your life in a dense cloud of grey.
Let me tell you about one of the low vision conditions and how it affects people.
Macular Degeneration and Low Vision
This is a condition in which the macula (the part of eye responsible for central vision) starts to slowly degrade, causing the person to lose central vision over time. There is no standard rule, some people might lose their sight a lot faster while some may experience a slower degradation. There is no cure once diagnosed. One could have a surgery that might stop the further prognosis, but there are a lot of variables playing in the success of such a surgery.
This is just one of the many conditions out there. Key facts from the World Health Organization (WHO) dictate that around 36 million people are blind and 217 million people are affected with a moderate to severe vision loss condition. Out of this, 81% of the people are aged around 50 or above. These are huge numbers! So what does virtual reality play do that controversial treatments can’t?
The Virtual Solution to a Real Problem
Scientists have been working around the clock to find some way to bring relief to such people, without putting a constant strain on their wallets and body. Dr. Frank Werblin, a professor of Neuroscience and an MIT graduate, and his team worked on something exactly like that. A unique low vision aid, called IrisVision, that improves the sight of such people without putting them through any invasive surgery, or a heavy medicine course or confining them to limited environments. It combines a mobile app and a virtual reality headset, and when patients wear it, it’s like they can see almost as clearly as before.
How is it that possible? Let’s look into that.
It has feature specifically tailored for people with macular degeneration, optic nerve damage, leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy and other similar conditions.
The mobile app comes loaded in a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. All you need to do is plug it in the Samsung Gear VR headset and you’re ready to go. It’s that simple!
You can magnify on objects – That means it can adjust to people with short or farsightedness.
You get different reading modes – Apart from the traditional readers that let you magnify text, this one lets you change contrasts of words and the background, therefore making it easier to read.
You get different light settings – That means you can adjust the light sensitivity according to personal needs. A lot of people with low vision cannot sit in well lit environments. Wearing IrisVision, you can control what amount of light you see.
These features might seem common with other low vision aids, and you might be thinking what sets this one apart?
I would say it’s their IrisBubble feature.
It lets you zoom in on a specific area in your field of view. Sometimes patients develop blur spots in their vision. This particularly addresses to that. The default shape is a circle but you can change that.This type of zooming helps the person stay in context with the rest of the scene rather than getting a ‘telescopic view’ which only shows you what you zoom in on and cuts the rest of your view. Pretty impressive, right?
Anyone fighting with the reality that they might not be able to see for the rest of their life, IrisVision feels like a miracle. I read some of the reviews of the patients who used it and their experience was simply exceptional.
It makes you wonder, how a mere app, a smartphone and a VR headset can be used for such a great purpose that not only changes a person’s life but improves the quality of life as well.