Mobility Enhancement & Vision Rehabilitation

Dorr M, Lesmes LA, Lu Z-L, Bex PJ. Rapid and reliable assessment of the contrast sensitivity function on an iPad. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2013;54(12):7266-73.Abstract
PURPOSE: Letter acuity, the predominant clinical assessment of vision, is relatively insensitive to slow vision loss caused by eye disease. While the contrast sensitivity function (CSF) has demonstrated the potential to monitor the slow progress of blinding eye diseases, current tests of CSF lack the reliability or ease-of-use to capture changes in vision timely. To improve the current state of home testing for vision, we have developed and validated a computerized adaptive test on a commercial tablet device (iPad) that provides an efficient and easy-to-use assessment of the CSF. METHODS: We evaluated the reliability, accuracy, and flexibility of tablet-based CSF assessment. Repeated tablet-based assessments of the spatial CSF, obtained from four normally-sighted observers, which each took 3 to 5 minutes, were compared to measures obtained on CRT-based laboratory equipment; additional tablet-based measures were obtained from six subjects under three different luminance conditions. RESULTS: A Bland-Altman analysis demonstrated that tablet-based assessment was reliable for estimating sensitivities at specific spatial frequencies (coefficient of repeatability 0.14-0.40 log units). The CRT- and tablet-based results demonstrated excellent agreement with absolute mean sensitivity differences <0.05 log units. The tablet-based test also reliably identified changes in contrast sensitivity due to different luminance conditions. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrate that CSF assessment on a mobile device is indistinguishable from that obtained with specialized laboratory equipment. We also demonstrate better reliability than tests used currently for clinical trials of ophthalmic therapies, drugs, and devices.
Connors EC, Yazzolino LA, Sánchez J, Merabet LB. Development of an audio-based virtual gaming environment to assist with navigation skills in the blind. J Vis Exp 2013;(73)Abstract
Audio-based Environment Simulator (AbES) is virtual environment software designed to improve real world navigation skills in the blind. Using only audio based cues and set within the context of a video game metaphor, users gather relevant spatial information regarding a building's layout. This allows the user to develop an accurate spatial cognitive map of a large-scale three-dimensional space that can be manipulated for the purposes of a real indoor navigation task. After game play, participants are then assessed on their ability to navigate within the target physical building represented in the game. Preliminary results suggest that early blind users were able to acquire relevant information regarding the spatial layout of a previously unfamiliar building as indexed by their performance on a series of navigation tasks. These tasks included path finding through the virtual and physical building, as well as a series of drop off tasks. We find that the immersive and highly interactive nature of the AbES software appears to greatly engage the blind user to actively explore the virtual environment. Applications of this approach may extend to larger populations of visually impaired individuals.
Sánchez J, Espinoza M, de Borba Campos M, Merabet LB. Enhancing Orientation and Mobility Skills in Learners who are Blind through Video gaming. Creat Cognit 2013;2013:353-356.Abstract
In this work we present the results of the cognitive impact evaluation regarding the use of Audiopolis, an audio and/or haptic-based videogame. The software has been designed, developed and evaluated for the purpose of developing orientation and mobility (O&M) skills in blind users. The videogame was evaluated through cognitive tasks performed by a sample of 12 learners. The results demonstrated that the use of Audiopolis had a positive impact on the development and use of O&M skills in school-aged blind learners.
Hwang AD, Peli E. Development of a Headlight Glare Simulator for a Driving Simulator. Transp Res Part C Emerg Technol 2013;32:129-143.Abstract
We describe the design and construction of a headlight glare simulator to be used with a driving simulator. The system combines a modified programmable off-the-shelf LED display board and a beamsplitter so that the LED lights, representing the headlights of oncoming cars, are superimposed over the driving simulator headlights image. Ideal spatial arrangement of optical components to avoid misalignments of the superimposed images is hard to achieve in practice and variations inevitably introduce some parallax. Furthermore, the driver's viewing position varies with driver's height and seating position preferences exacerbate such misalignment. We reduce the parallax errors using an intuitive calibration procedure (simple drag-and-drop alignment of nine LED positions with calibration dots on the screen). To simulate the dynamics of headlight brightness changes when two vehicles are approaching, LED intensity control algorithms based on both headlight and LED beam shapes were developed. The simulation errors were estimated and compared to real-world headlight brightness variability.
Bowers AR, Tant M, Peli E. A pilot evaluation of on-road detection performance by drivers with hemianopia using oblique peripheral prisms. Stroke Res Treat 2012;2012:176806.Abstract
Aims. Homonymous hemianopia (HH), a severe visual consequence of stroke, causes difficulties in detecting obstacles on the nonseeing (blind) side. We conducted a pilot study to evaluate the effects of oblique peripheral prisms, a novel development in optical treatments for HH, on detection of unexpected hazards when driving. Methods. Twelve people with complete HH (median 49 years, range 29-68) completed road tests with sham oblique prism glasses (SP) and real oblique prism glasses (RP). A masked evaluator rated driving performance along the 25 km routes on busy streets in Ghent, Belgium. Results. The proportion of satisfactory responses to unexpected hazards on the blind side was higher in the RP than the SP drive (80% versus 30%; P = 0.001), but similar for unexpected hazards on the seeing side. Conclusions. These pilot data suggest that oblique peripheral prisms may improve responses of people with HH to blindside hazards when driving and provide the basis for a future, larger-sample clinical trial. Testing responses to unexpected hazards in areas of heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic appears promising as a real-world outcome measure for future evaluations of HH rehabilitation interventions aimed at improving detection when driving.
Luo G, Satgunam PN, Peli E. Visual search performance of patients with vision impairment: effect of JPEG image enhancement. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt 2012;32(5):421-8.Abstract
PURPOSE: To measure natural image search performance in patients with central vision impairment. To evaluate the performance effect for a JPEG based image enhancement technique using the visual search task. METHODS: One hundred and fifty JPEG images were presented on a touch screen monitor in either an enhanced or original version to 19 patients (visual acuity 0.4-1.2 logMAR, 6/15 to 6/90, 20/50 to 20/300) and seven normally sighted controls (visual acuity -0.12 to 0.1 logMAR, 6/4.5 to 6/7.5, 20/15 to 20/25). Each image fell into one of three categories: faces, indoors, and collections. The enhancement was realized by moderately boosting a mid-range spatial frequency band in the discrete cosine transform (DCT) coefficients of the image luminance component. Participants pointed to an object in a picture that matched a given target displayed at the upper-left corner of the monitor. Search performance was quantified by the percentage of correct responses, the median search time of correct responses, and an 'integrated performance' measure - the area under the curve of cumulative correct response rate over search time. RESULTS: Patients were able to perform the search tasks but their performance was substantially worse than the controls. Search performances for the three image categories were significantly different (p <= 0.001) for all the participants, with searching for faces being the most difficult. When search time and correct response were analyzed separately, the effect of enhancement led to increase in one measure but decrease in another for many patients. Using the integrated performance, it was found that search performance declined with decrease in acuity (p = 0.005). An improvement with enhancement was found mainly for the patients whose acuity ranged from 0.4 to 0.8 logMAR (6/15 to 6/38, 20/50 to 20/125). Enhancement conferred a small but significant improvement in integrated performance for indoor and collection images (p = 0.025) in the patients. CONCLUSION: Search performance for natural images can be measured in patients with impaired vision to evaluate the effect of image enhancement. Patients with moderate vision loss might benefit from the moderate level of enhancement used here.
Merabet LB, Connors EC, Halko MA, Sánchez J. Teaching the blind to find their way by playing video games. PLoS One 2012;7(9):e44958.Abstract
Computer based video games are receiving great interest as a means to learn and acquire new skills. As a novel approach to teaching navigation skills in the blind, we have developed Audio-based Environment Simulator (AbES); a virtual reality environment set within the context of a video game metaphor. Despite the fact that participants were naïve to the overall purpose of the software, we found that early blind users were able to acquire relevant information regarding the spatial layout of a previously unfamiliar building using audio based cues alone. This was confirmed by a series of behavioral performance tests designed to assess the transfer of acquired spatial information to a large-scale, real-world indoor navigation task. Furthermore, learning the spatial layout through a goal directed gaming strategy allowed for the mental manipulation of spatial information as evidenced by enhanced navigation performance when compared to an explicit route learning strategy. We conclude that the immersive and highly interactive nature of the software greatly engages the blind user to actively explore the virtual environment. This in turn generates an accurate sense of a large-scale three-dimensional space and facilitates the learning and transfer of navigation skills to the physical world.