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Low Vision Aid

Design for Wearable Low Vision Aids
Open Letter regarding Low Vision

Low vision is a common condition in modern society in which visual acuity has been reduced and is uncorrectable using glasses or contact lenses. Estimates by the Community Services for the Blind and Partially Sighted are that 2% of the population in the United States have low vision. People with low vision are not completely blind, but many are unable to hold a drivers license and have a great deal of difficulty reading or watching television. Possible causes include damage to the retina - central or peripheral field degradation - and damage to the optical pathway - corneal damage/malformation or lens damage.

Our goal at HIT Lab is to research the beneficial attributes of scanned laser displays for the basis of future low vision aids. Furthermore, the HIT Lab, with support from the National Science Foundation, is committed to the engineering design of low vision aids that will improve the ability of the partially sighted to more easily read printed material, watch television, use computers, or simply navigate outside.

The VRD has been developed as a display system for a variety of purposes ranging from augmented reality for airplane pilots to an alternate display for computer images. Special characteristics of the VRD that make it ideal for the partially sighted are:

  1. the brightest images of any display technology
  2. images are at high contrast across the full color scale
  3. small exit pupil, less than one millimeter diameter, allowing the scanned image to avoid damaged regions of the eye
  4. small beam diameter of the VRD creating a large depth of focus making the projected image less sensitive to the optical aberrations of the eye
  5. reduced glare from the more directed and narrow laser light of the projected image
  6. no need for a large physical screen, creating the possibility for a wearable low vision aid
We hope to use these unique VRD features as a means of providing more visible images to people with low vision.

Our current research at the HIT Lab includes: low vision patient testing, prototyping low vision aid hardware, and software display enhancement for low vision.

Sponsoring Agencies

National Science Foundation
NSF Grant # 9801294
NSF Grant # 9703598
NSF Grant # 9978566
NSF Grant # 9978888


Thomas A. Furness III <tfurness at>, Eric Seibel <eseibel at>, Dr. Erik Viirre <erikv at>, Suzanne Weghorst <weghorst at>