Off-the-shelf AR glasses used to restore depth perception to the partially blind

Autore: ExtremeTech

For people with misaligned or damaged eyes, depth perception is limited. Monocular depth clues like shadows, comparative size, and motion parallax do exist, but binocular vision allows for a more accurate perception of depth. Researchers at Japan’s University of Yamanashi are working with off-the-shelf augmented reality glasses to offer improved depth perception for the binocularly challenged.

By utilizing a pair of Wrap 920AR augmented reality glasses made by Vuzix, the team was able to record the scene from the angle of both eyes. The visual data is processed by a quad-core Windows 7 machine, and the merged images are then displayed to the healthy eye. Instead of having your brain merge the two pictures into one 3D image, the computer is doing the heavy lifting.

Merged Image Showing Depth This system works by blurring objects according to their depth. As you can see in the image on the right, the objects at a set depth to the cameras remain clear and sharp while the more distant imagery becomes increasingly defocused. In a small test with eight subjects, seven of them were able to effectively use the synthesized imagery to solve a depth-based puzzle faster than they could with the use of normal monocular vision.

Reliance on binocular depth clues is highly variable between different people. The book The Mind’s Eye by Dr. Oliver Sacks highlights his own severe difficulty interpreting visual information after most of his vision in his right eye was lost to cancer. People who are born without binocular vision generally seem to function well, but with some notable limitations. An entire chapter of the book is dedicated to a woman dubbed “Stereo Sue.” In detail, he explains how she reacted when ocular surgery corrected her vision after she grew up with misaligned eyes. It should suffice to say that her depth perception improved handily.

The technology is still in its infancy. The processed imagery has a fairly low resolution and frame rate, and it requires the glasses to be connected to a laptop. Newer tech will provide better resolution, faster frames per second, and a larger viewport. The research team expects these improvements to increase the effectiveness down the road. Mobile computing with smartphones and tablets is growing at a rapid rate, so the portability will become easier as well. This research has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people with vision problems. The line between computers and humans continues to blur as we march towards functional cybernetics. This is transhumanism at its best.

Research paper: Mono-glass for Providing Distance Information for People Losing Sight in One Eye

[Image credit: Vuzix]

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