The inability to see properly severely limits a person’s ability to lead a normal life. But thanks to technological development, many visually impaired people may be able to regain their eyesight. At least, this is the conclusion of a recent clinical trial using a wearable VR device developed by GiveVision.
GiveVision VR Device – a Second Chance for People With Low Vision
The company first came out with the prototype of the device, which looks like a VR headset, back in 2015. They developed this innovative product with the aim of restoring vision to people whose eyesight deteriorated beyond repair. The target user for the specialized VR headset is a person who can no longer rely on prescription lenses or surgery to regain an acceptable level of vision.
However, the term “VR device” does not fully encompass the technology used for GiveVision’s wearable headset. It actually uses both virtual and augmented reality to enhance vision.
Since AR and VR manipulate the way we see the world, GiveVision’s CEO, Stan Karpenko, believes they are both perfect for people with visual impairments. “Unfortunately, most commercial AR displays are designed for sighted people and so rarely exceed 40° field of view – which is not sufficient for people with sight loss,” he told ARPost. “However, improvements to display and optics technologies now mean that we have access to cost-effective, lightweight HD OLED displays with 100°+ field of view.”
Details of the Study
The clinical trial used the most recent model of GiveVision’s VR device – SightPlus. This is still a prototype version, but it has all the features of an MVP. With funding from Innovate UK, the clinical trial took place at Moorfields Eye Hospital.
Dr. Michael Crossland, Specialist Optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, and Professor Andrew Webster, Chair of Molecular Ophthalmology at UCL, led the study. It included 60 participants, between 18 and 93 years old.
All participants who received SightPlus had low eye vision, which cannot be corrected by neither prescription glasses nor surgery. They had to evaluate the improvement of three main elements of eyesight. Those are binocular distance visual acuity, reading acuity, as well as contrast sensitivity.
As Karpenko explained to ARPost, GiveVision uses lightweight HD OLED VR displays to effectively project images into the working part of a visually impaired person’s retina. “The SightPlus device also augments the real-time feed which is being projected into the retina in order to fit the specific needs of a visually impaired person. This augmentation includes things like altering the size, color, or contrast of an image in order to make it easier for a visually impaired person to perceive,” he said.
The Results of the Test Using SightPlus
The responses of the participants indicated that 98% of them (59 out of 60) experienced an improvement in visual acuity. The average improvement is in the range of 6 lines (0.60 logMAR) on the LogMAR chart. Two-thirds even found their eyesight improve to 0.20 logMAR, which is almost the level of normal vision. LogMAR chart is used for estimating visual acuity. Zero LogMAR (0.00) indicates standard vision, positive values indicate poor vision, and negative values indicate good vision.
Nearly half of the participants (47%) said that they would wear the VR device for watching TV, reading, or going to the theater.
Future Possibilities and Developments
Speaking of the results of the test, Dr. Michael Crossland said in a press release:
“It is exciting that SightPlus improved visual function in a clinical setting. Alongside conventional low vision aids, wearable devices like SightPlus have the potential to extend the number of tasks which people with visual impairment can perform independently. We look forward to continuing to evaluate these devices, particularly in real-world settings.”
The research team wrote entire methodology and the results of the clinical trial in a paper published in the Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics (OPO) journal.
How to Try the GiveVision VR Device
At the moment, GiveVision offers free testing sessions to those interested to try the VR device. The participants who notice an improvement in eyesight during the test can continue with a 30-day trial at home. GiveVision asks for a deposit of £495 for the at-home trial. However, they will refund the deposit, if the device doesn’t end up meeting the user’s expectations.
The vision-enhancing SightPlus glasses are available either as a direct purchase for £2995, or through a monthly subscription program. Unfortunately, they currently do not ship outside the UK.