As people age and develop ocular diseases such as glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa, an unfortunate side effect is the gradual inability to locate and recognize objects not directly in front of them -- a condition more commonly known as tunnel vision. Previous gadgets designed to combat this problem, such as so-called reverse binocular glasses, have indeed been successful in providing patients with additional visual data; however, their miniaturizing effect took much of the detail away from peripheral objects, making them uncomfortable and ultimately ineffective for everyday use. Fortunately for tunnel vision sufferers, a new, higher-tech option may soon be available to aid them in their plight, in the form of an innovative device designed by a team at Harvard Medical School affiliate Schepens Eye Research Institute. Developed in conjunction with MyVu
HMD manufacturer MicroOptical Corp., the augmented vision device consists of a video camera and transparent display attached to a pair of glasses and tethered by wire to a small computer. The computer processes the incoming visual data from the camera and projects a real-time outline of the wearer's surroundings right onto the center of the glasses, effectively "filling in the blanks" for the peripheral objects that would not normally be viewable. In tests conducted by the team, affected patients with only an hour of training were able to significantly increase the directness of their searches, while at the same time reducing the amount of time necessary to locate an object by about 22%. Further long term studies are necessary to determine how effective the device would be with more training and regular usage, but with such promising initial results, tunnel vision sufferers may finally be able to step out of the shadows and literally see the light.