Last month was Low Vision Awareness Month aimed at bringing awareness of the challenges experienced by 4.2 million Americans ages 40 and older who are visually impaired. This number is projected to reach 7.2 million by 2030 due to aging and the increased life expectancy of our population. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of low vision or visual impairment that is not correctable with standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery. Age-related macular degeneration affects central vision making Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) like reading, shopping, cooking, writing and watching TV difficult.
One of the most impressive new technologies on the market is the eSight. The eSight is a wearable device worn like a normal pair of glasses that restores sight for someone who is visually impaired. The device combines a high speed, high resolution camera, a powerful computer and enhanced proprietary algorithms to project images in color on two near-to-eye OLED screens. While wearing the device, users can adjust the tilt, color, contrast, focus, brightness and magnification up to 24x. The short video feed delay ensures that users experience no issues with balance as seen with virtual reality headsets. While connected to Bluetooth or WiFi, users can take pictures, stream their favorite shows or look through emails.
The eSight tackles the many ADLs that impact people with macular degeneration including:
- seeing the faces of loved ones
- reading books
- cooking meals for themselves or their loved ones
- going on a walk by themselves
- catching up on their favorite TV shows
- writing special occasion cards
A second device, the OrCam MyEye is a small, battery-powered, self-contained unit (no smartphone, Wifi or computer needed to operate) that easily attaches to a pair of glasses using a magnetic clip. The MyEye reads text and provides information about other items to people who are visually impaired. While wearing, the user holds up and points to the desired text or page and the MyEye begins speaking the words out loud. The device stops reading when the user holds up their hand. Face-recognition is another feature of the MyEye. The device learns a face by having the user face a person and scan their head from side to side. Additionally, the device recognizes colors, currencies and some barcodes on products.
The MyEye primarily benefits people with macular degeneration by making audible all types of printed materials and recognizing faces. This enhances their shopping experiences, looking at mail, reading the newspaper, menu or books and seeing people’s faces, all ADLs impacted by central visual impairment. For more information on the eSight visit, https://www.esighteyewear.com/technology and the MyEye, https://www.orcam.com/en/myeye2/.
Managing macular degeneration not only includes assisting an individual with daily living tasks but also monitoring their macular degeneration for potential changes. One of the earliest signs of progression in macular degeneration is loss of color vision, specifically both red-green (RG) and in the yellow-blue (YB) spectrum. Recent studies show that color vision changes may turn out to be sensitive and important indicators of early changes preceding functional vision changes (Vemala, Sivaprasad & Barbur, 2017).
Innovators at EyeQue corporation are on a mission to elevate in-home eye care and monitoring of vision including color vision. Online color vision testing allows those with macular degeneration to closely monitor these early changes. The EyeQue color vision test enables users to test their RG and YB sensitivity providing real time results of their color vision. Visit EyeQue’s website at: https://www.eyeque.com/color-blind-test