Thursday, June 6, 2013

Israeli science aids the visually impaired

It appears that Israeli ingenuity is about to open new vistas for the visually impaired.

Amid the announcement that Google’s Glass, a wearable computer in sun-shade form with a head mounted display (HMD), is nearly ready for mass production, Israeli scientists and researchers are rolling out a new strategy and new products to help people who suffer from ocular degenerative disorders.

Studies at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology into retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic disease causing degradation in the light sensing-cells within the eyes that eventually leads to vision impairment, may have uncovered a possible treatment. A computer-driven technique called holography, using a Google Glass-like HMD, employs a process called parallel projection to translate visual scenes into light, stimulating restored vision cells and reconnecting them to the brain.

The Argus II is being tested in the United States and is showing promising results. It could be available later this year.
Connecting wirelessly to the Internet, the unit matches what the wearer sees to a vast library of images stored in a virtual data cloud.

For those with total vision loss, Orcam, an Israeli start-up, has unveiled a camera-based system that uses photo recognition software to read and translate into speech what the user is intending to see.

Worn also in a Google Glass-type style, the camera is mounted to standard or lens-less frames by a small magnet and is connected to a portable, pocket-sized computer. By reading aloud words and announcing objects pointed to by the wearer, visually impaired people gain greater mobility and visual comprehension.

Are there any other science fiction fans out there who remember the visor worn by The Next Generation character Geordie La Forge? Does all this mean that Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry had the idea right all along?

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