Augmented-reality glasses helping blind see again

Augmented-reality glasses helping blind see again

Augmented-reality glasses helping the blind see again

Startup OxSight uses computer-vision algorithms and cameras to make the world visible again for the visually impaired
Stephen Hicks and his team developed algorithms that replicate our natural visual-interpretation process
David Vintiner

To see, you need more than eyes. “Even when someone is losing their sight, they still have a good brain that’s trying to understand and pick up clues from objects, if given enough input,” says Stephen Hicks, research fellow in neuroscience at the University of Oxford. This mechanism means partially sighted people can be helped to see, even as their eyesight worsens. To make that possible, Hicks’s startup, OxSight, is building augmented-reality glasses that render the physical world visible, even to the visually impaired.

The sense we experience as vision is the outcome of a constant jigsaw-assembling process in our brain: the eyes only need to pick up specific visual tidbits (colour, contrast, dimensions), and the occipital and parietal lobes will make sense of the overall picture. Having observed this through his research, Hicks teamed up with fellow Oxford computer-vision scientist Philip Torr to create OxSight, a spinout that launched in March 2016. The pair designed augmented-reality glasses that let partially sighted people make sense of their surroundings by spotlighting specific visual cues and overlaying them on the lenses in real time.

Using computer-vision algorithms and cameras, OxSight’s glasses can increase image contrast, highlight specific visual features or create cartoonish representations of reality, depending on the eye condition they’re being used to compensate for. “For instance, if you have tunnel vision and issues with colour perception, they’d emphasise colours,” explains Hicks, 43. “If you have got glaucoma and your vision is blurry, the glasses will enhance the salience of certain objects.”

Hicks says OxSight’s biggest technical challenge was tweaking the computer-vision software so that it could run on very little computing power. “We’ve optimised the system for particular use cases so that it could work on a mobile phone’s graphics processor,” he says. (The glasses run on Android.) Aesthetics are harder to crack. “They need to look like regular sunglasses: visually impaired people won’t tolerate something that makes them stand out,” he adds.

OxSight won a £500,000 Google Global Impact Award in 2015, and raised £2 million from angel investor Jiangong Zhang in 2016; its device is scheduled for release in late 2017. The company is still trialling the glasses with several people across the UK. Pilot users, who are suffering from diseases such as glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa or diabetes, report that, due to the glasses, they can avoid obstacles, see blurry faces clearly again and read from slides. Hicks is pleased with the results: “Most pilot users find them to be life-changing.”

First posted at


Tags, ,

Dressmakers have needle-sharp 3-D vision

New research suggests that the 3D or ‘stereoscopic’ vision of dressmakers is as sharp as their needles.

originally posted by
June 14, 2017
University of California – Berkeley
Haute couture can be credited for enhancing more than catwalks and red carpets. New research suggests that the 3D or ‘stereoscopic’ vision of dressmakers is as sharp as their needles.

Seamstress sewing.
Credit: © Fergus Coyle / Fotolia

Haute couture can be credited for enhancing more than catwalks and red carpets. New research from the University of California, Berkeley suggests that the 3D or “stereoscopic” vision of dressmakers is as sharp as their needles.

Stereoscopic vision is the brain’s ability to decode the flat 2D optical information received by both eyes to give us the depth of perception needed to thread a needle, catch a ball, park a car and generally navigate a 3D world.

Using computerized perceptual tasks, researchers from UC Berkeley and the University of Geneva, Switzerland, tested the stereoscopic vision of dressmakers and other professionals, and found dressmakers to be the most eagle-eyed.

The results, published in the June 13 issue of the journal Scientific Reports, show dressmakers to be 80 percent more accurate than non-dressmakers at calculating the distance between themselves and the objects they were looking at, and 43 percent better at estimating the distance between objects.

“We found dressmakers have superior stereovision, perhaps because of the direct feedback involved with fine needlework,” said study lead author Adrien Chopin, a postdoctoral researcher in visual neuroscience at UC Berkeley.

What researchers are still determining is whether dressmaking sharpens stereoscopic vision, or whether dressmakers are drawn to the trade because of their visual stereo-acuity, Chopin said.

To experience what it means to have stereoscopic vision, focus on a visual target. Now blink one eye while still staring at your target. Then blink the other eye. The background should appear to shift position. With stereoscopic vision, the brain’s visual cortex merges the 2D viewpoints of each eye into one 3D image.

It has generally been assumed that surgeons, dentists and other medical professionals who perform precise manual procedures would have superior stereovision. But previous studies have shown this not to be the case.

That spurred Chopin to investigate which professions would produce or attract people with superior stereovision, and led him to dressmakers.

A better understanding of dressmakers’ stereoscopic superpowers will inform ongoing efforts to train people with visual impairments such as amblyopia or “lazy eye” to strengthen their stereoscopic vision, Chopin said.

In addition to helping people with sight disorders, improved stereoscopic vision may be key to the success of military fighters, athletes and other occupations that require keen hand-eye coordination. An estimated 10 percent of people suffer from some form of stereoscopic impairment, and 5 percent suffer from full stereo blindness, Chopin said.

For example, the 17th-century Dutch painter Rembrandt, whose self-portraits occasionally showed him with one lazy eye, is thought to have suffered from stereo blindness, rendering him with flat vision. Some vision scientists have posited that painters tend to have poorer stereovision, which gives them an advantage working in 2D.

For the study, participants viewed objects on a computer screen through a stereoscope and judged the distances between objects, and between themselves and the objects. Researchers recorded their visual precision and found that, overall, dressmakers performed markedly better than their non-dressmaker counterparts in visual acuity.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of California – Berkeley. Original written by Yasmin Anwar. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Adrien Chopin, Dennis M. Levi, Daphné Bavelier. Dressmakers show enhanced stereoscopic visionScientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-03425-1

Tags, , ,

Amazing Eyes

Brown eyes 6.10.14We don’t often give our eyes as much thought as we should, that is until something goes wrong and our vision is affected. But when you learn more about eyes, you realize just how amazing they are. Here are a few facts you may enjoy:

1. Eyes began to develop 550 million years ago. The simplest eyes were patches of photoreceptor protein in single-celled animals.

2. Your eyes start to develop two weeks after you are conceived.

3. The entire length of all the eyelashes shed by a human in their life is over 98 feet with each eye lash having a life span of about 5 months.

4. To protect our eyes they are positioned in a hollowed eye socket, while eyebrows prevent sweat dripping into your eyes and eyelashes keep dirt out of your eyes.

5. Your eyeballs stay the same size from birth to death, while your nose and ears continue to grow.

6. An eye is composed of more than 2 million working parts.

7. Only 1/6 of the human eyeball is exposed.

8. Corneas are the only tissues that don’t have blood.

9. The human eye weights approximately just under an ounce and is about an inch across.

10. An eye cannot be transplanted. More than 1 million nerve fibers connect each eye to the brain and currently we’re not able to reconstruct those connections.

11. 80% of our memories are determined by what we see.

12. Eyes heal quickly. With proper care, it takes only about 48 hours to repair a minor corneal scratch.

13. There are about 39 million people that are blind around the world.

14. 80% of vision problems worldwide are avoidable or even curable.

15. Humans and dogs are the only species known to seek visual cues from another individual’s eyes, and dogs only do this when interacting with humans.

16. A fingerprint has 40 unique characteristics, but an iris has 256, a reason retina scans are increasingly being used for security purposes.

17. People who are blind can see their dreams if they weren’t born blind.

18. “Red eye” occurs in photos because light from the flash bounces off the back of the eye. The choroid is located behind the retina and is rich in blood vessels, which make it appear red on film.

19. 80% of what we learn is through our eyes.

20. Eyes are the second most complex organ after the brain.

Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

Tags, , , , , , ,

positive versus negative

Feeling Negative? Something Needs to Change

Feeling Negative? Time for Change!

“Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change.” – Gretchen Rubin

Young male in hooded top contemplating, mood lighting against blLook in the mirror. See that grumpy face staring back at you? What you’re feeling inside is coming to the surface to let you know that all is not where it needs to be right now. Those tears you can’t stop shedding? They’re tangible evidence of a powerfully negative emotion that you must deal with to get on with life.

Other negative emotions that play out in interactions with others and because of inaction or unwillingness to confront a situation that needs to change include jealousy, shame, loneliness, anger, remorse, vindictiveness, and a desire to hurt others or self.

In fact, it’s easier to discern a negative emotion than a positive one at times. Peace, love and happiness show a similar face. Maybe that’s a sign of uniformity of purpose. When you’re happy, in love, at peace, you’re positive and in a good place. No wonder someone who’s not in such a good place will have such a hard time being around you. They’d really like to escape from their own negativity, but find it difficult to do so.

First steps you can take.

When it’s you that’s experiencing negative emotions, the first step to overcoming them is to acknowledge their presence. All it takes is a quick glance in the mirror to know they’re there. But getting past those negative and often painful emotions will take a little bit of work.

The most important question is: Are you willing to change? Perhaps some of what’s making you miserable is that you don’t know what to do to resolve the situation. Take some time to figure out what caused the negativity and you’ll have a good starting point for change.

If you feel stunted in your career, is it that you’re not receiving the recognition you deserve or feel you should have? Are you disappointed in yourself for not pursuing advancement? Are you jealous that someone else got the career boost instead of you?

While your work is cut out for you, sitting down to figure out a plan to satisfy your desire to advance in your job will jumpstart positivity. You will arrive at a strategy that you can then elect to pursue. After that, it’s up to you to do the work to make the change happen.

Sometimes, however, it’s not any life-changing situation that produces the negativity. You could be bored, disinterested in your everyday life, or feel bogged down with responsibility and not having the opportunity to have fun. Again, these are signs that there’s something you need to do to change.

Find a hobby, join a group, make some new friends, push yourself to do things that aren’t in your comfort zone but that hold some interest. When you make it a point to get outside your troubles and problems, even minor ones, you’ll start feeling more positive. You’ll also be more receptive to the changes you want and need to make.

Could depression be at fault?

What if you’ve tried and failed to overcome negative emotions? This might be caused by an underlying condition of depression, especially if the feelings are persistent and get in the way of everyday life. Here’s where seeking professional help can make a profound difference. Counseling from a psychiatrist or psychologist or other mental health professional will benefit you greatly, helping you sort out your emotions, identify dreams, choose goals and craft action plans to achieve them.

Remember that everyone experiences ups and downs. It’s not the if, but the when this occurs. How you tackle overcoming negativity is a purely personal decision, yet it makes sense to initiate the process earlier rather than later. After all, isn’t the point of life to live it to the fullest, to enjoy maximum productivity, sense of purposefulness and well-being?

If all this seems like too much work and you’re thinking it will take more time than you want to devote to it, ask yourself what matters most. If your current efforts aren’t allowing you to achieve your goals, to realize your heartfelt dreams, maybe it’s worth taking the time to get at the root of some negative behaviors, poor self-care, self-sabotage and other aspects of unhappiness and negativity.


Smoking Weed May Improve Night Vision

Smoking Weed May Improve Night Vision

Cannabinoid Receptors In Retina Make Cells Sensitive To Light

Originally posted at

Growing up, you likely learned about a list of veggies, including Vitamin-A rich carrots, that can improve your eyesight, but marijuana probably wasn’t on that list. Now, researchers from the Montreal Neurological Institute suggest smoking weed may help your night vision by decreasing the eyes’ sensitivity to light.

Full article here

The belief marijuana could improve, not impair, vision goes against conventional wisdom. One of the drug’s key effects on eye health is redness. THC, the drug’s active ingredient, lowers blood pressure, which dilates the blood vessels and increases blood flow to the body. This leads the blood vessels in the eye to expand and causes redness or bloodshot eyes. But researchers found applying a synthetic cannabinoid to eye tissue can make cells more sensitive by increasing the rate they fired to both bright and dim light stimuli.

“Initially you distrust yourself when you see something that goes against widely held ideas, but we tried the experiment so many times, using diverse techniques, and it was a consistent result,” said Ed Ruthazer, senior author of the paper, and a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University, in a statement.

In the study, published in the journal eLife, Ruthazer and his colleagues applied synthetic cannabinoids to the eye tissue of tadpoles of the African clawed toad in one group, while the other group acted as a control. Researchers chose to observe tadpoles because like humans, their eyes also contain CB1 protein, which binds the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana (THC). They used microelectrodes to measure how retinal ganglion cells, whose fibers form the optic nerve, respond to light.

The tadpoles were then placed in a petri dish that was dotted with black marks on the outside shaped to look like the shadows of predators. Typically, tadpoles will avoid the dark as a defense mechanism to stay safe from predators.

Girl and smoke Smoking weed may help you see better in the dark, and act as treatment for degenerative eye diseases. Photo courtesy of Pexels, Public Domain

The findings revealed there was heightened activity in the presence of the cannabinoids in the retina. Meanwhile, when the lights were turned down, tadpoles given cannabinoids were more effective at avoiding fearsome marks than their sober counterparts. Researchers suspect the improved vision is linked to how the preoccupied CB1 receptors caused a decrease in the number of negatively charged chloride ions that traveled inside the neurons. This causes the membranes to become hyperpolarized, which leads to more electrical activity.

Although this gives some insight that marijuana could someday be used as a medical treatment to degenerative eye diseases, like retinitis pigmentosa, the results warrant further investigation, authors said.

“Our work provides an exciting potential mechanism for cannabinoid regulation of neuronal firing, but it will obviously be important to confirm that similar mechanisms are also at play in the eyes of mammals,” said Ruthazer.

In a similar 2004 study in the Jourrnal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers traveled to the Rif mountains in Morocco to observe the effects of marijuana on night vision. The researchers gave synthetic cannabinoid to one volunteer, and hashish to three more, and then measured the sensitivity of their night vision before and after. Marijuana improved night vision in all three participants. However, the study did not explore why vision improved.

The method hasn’t been tested on people yet, but it does provide hope for treatments for debilitating eye diseases like glaucoma, which causes blindness by killing off cells in the retina. Cannabinoids are actually known to have a neuroprotective effect on retinal cells.

Source: Miraucourt LS, Tsui J, Gobert D et al. Endocannabinoid signaling enhances visual responses through modulation of intracellular chloride levels in retinal ganglion cells. eLife. 2016.

Tags, , , ,