Pixels guide the way for the visually impaired

February 28, 2013

Images have been transformed into pixels and projected onto a headset to help the visually impaired in everyday tasks such as navigation, route-planning and object finding.

Developed using a video camera and mathematical algorithm, the researchers from the University of Southern California hope the pixels can provide more information and enhance the vision of patients already fitted with retinal implants.

Lead author of the paper, James Weiland, said: "Blind people with retinal implants can detect motion and large objects and have improved orientation when walking. In most cases, they can also read large letters."

"At the moment, retinal implants are still low-resolution. We believe that our algorithm will enhance retinal implants by providing the user with more information when they are looking for a specific item."

The findings have been presented today, 1 March, in IOP Publishing's Journal of Neural Engineering.

A total of 19 healthy subjects were involved in the study, who each undertook training first to get used to the pixelated vision. During the study, they were fitted with a Head Mounted Display (HMD) and took part in three different experiments: walking an obstacle course; finding objects on an otherwise empty table; and searching for a particular target in a cluttered environment.

A video camera was mounted onto the HMD which collected real-world information in the view of the subject. Mathematical algorithms converted the real-world images into pixels, which were then displayed onto the HMD's screen in front of the subject

The algorithms used intensity, saturation and edge-information from the camera's images to pick out the five most important, or salient, locations in the image. Blinking dots at the side of the display provided the subjects with additional directional cues if needed.

All three of the experiments were performed with and without cues. When subjects used the directional cues, their head movements, the time to complete the task and the number of errors were all significantly reduced.

The subjects learnt to adapt to pixelated vision in all of the tasks, suggesting that image processing algorithms can be used to provide greater confidence to patients when performing tasks, especially in a new environment.

It is possible that the device could be fitted with voice description so that the subjects are provided with cues such as "the red target is to the left".

"We are currently looking to take this a step further with object recognition, so instead of telling subjects that 'the red object is to the left', it will tell them that 'the soda can you want is to the left'," continued Weiland.
-end-
From Friday 1 March, the paper can be downloaded from http://www.iopscience.iop.org/1741-2552/10/2/026017

Notes to Editors

Contact

1. For further information, a full draft of the journal paper or contact with one of the researchers, contact IOP Press Officer, Michael Bishop: Tel: 0117 930 1032 E-mail: Michael.bishop@iop.org

Performance of visually guided tasks using simulated prosthetic vision and saliency-based cues

2. The published version of the paper "Performance of visually guided tasks using simulated prosthetic vision and saliency-based cues" N Parikh et al 2013 J. Neural Eng. 10 026017 will be freely available online from Friday 1 March. It will be available from http://www.iopscience.iop.org/1741-2552/10/2/026017

Journal of Neural Engineering

3. Journal of Neural Engineering was created to help scientists, clinicians and engineers to understand, replace, repair and enhance the nervous system.

IOP Publishing

4. IOP Publishing provides a range of journals, magazines, websites and services that enable researchers and research organisations to reach the widest possible audience for their research.

We combine the culture of a learned society with global reach and highly efficient and effective publishing systems and processes. With offices in the UK, US, Germany, China and Japan, and staff in many other locations including Mexico and Russia, we serve researchers in the physical and related sciences in all parts of the world.

IOP Publishing is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Institute of Physics. The Institute is a leading scientific society promoting physics and bringing physicists together for the benefit of all. Any profits generated by IOP Publishing are used by the Institute to support science and scientists in both the developed and developing world. Go to ioppublishing.org.

The Institute of Physics

5. The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society. We are a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 45,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application. We engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, we are world leaders in professional scientific communications.

IOP Publishing

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