VoiceMap App Revolution

VoiceMap App Revolution

Hong Kong’s visually-impaired pedestrians are getting a clearer view of the city’s streets, thanks to a free new smartphone application launched by the Lands Department.

Like everyone, visually-impaired people like to get out of the house for a walk and to explore. However, their disability can make it difficult for them to know their exact location.

To solve this problem, the department has launched VoiceMapHK which tracks the user’s location and provides information on nearby facilities via the phone’s speaker or headphones.

It provides information on orientation and distance, and searches for nearby buildings, transport and points of interest.

The application lists 120 types of facilities, like libraries, public toilets, convenience stores, schools, MTR entries, and bus routes.

When the app is opened the “My Location” function allows the user to find their current position, then the “Nearby Environment” function tells them what facilities are nearby.

Demand driven

Lands Department Land Surveyor Chelsie Chan said several organisations for the visually impaired were consulted to find out what special functions were needed for the app.

“Visually-impaired users need a specific set of finger gestures to control phones and apps. For example, swipe right or left to select the next or previous item. Double-tap to activate the selected item. Also we can change the colour of the apps, with the selection of text in black with white background or text in yellow with black background. This is especially designed for people with colour blindness or colour weakness.”

Lands Department Senior Land Surveyor Ng Wai-tak said the app’s designers studied the habits of visually-impaired people and the daily difficulties they face. They also took into account the different way the visually impaired deal with orientation and direction.

“To meet their needs we had to rethink lots of issues. For example, people generally use left, right, front and back to describe direction. However, the visually-impaired use clock direction instead. It is much easier for them to understand.”

New horizons

Kim Mok has been visually impaired since 13 years of age. Although he has always walked the same route from the MTR station to his office building, his disability limits his awareness of the local environment.

The app has lifted this restriction, and he can now accurately navigate the area around his office building and anywhere else in Hong Kong.

“I am happy. I can be more independent and improve my quality of life.”

He said the data and functions in the app are well arranged, with the “My Location” function placed at the top as it is the most important to those with visual disability.

“When we are waiting for friends at some place, without this app, I cannot determine an accurate position, like which building or shops I am near. And I do not know whether I am at the right location and MTR access point. Now with this app I can get that information.”

Mr Mok said he hopes more functions will be added to the app, such as point-to-point navigation, along with more data on districts where many visually-impaired people live, such as Shek Kip Mei, Wong Tai Sin and Kwun Tong.

The app is available in Chinese and English, and operates on iOS 8.1 or higher operating systems. The department said it will consider launching the app on the Android platform as well, and will study the possibility of adding more features in future.

originally posted at news.gov.uk
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Fillers May Be Causing Blindness

Soft Tissue Fillers May Be Causing Blindness in Patients?

The rising popularity of soft tissue fillers has led to a rise in reports of side effects such as blindess.

The FDA approved the use of soft tissue fillers for the correction of moderate to severe facial wrinkles and skin folds (like the nasolabial folds). Some soft tissue fillers are approved for the restoration or correction of facial fat loss in people with HIV.

But according to the Food and Drug Administration, there are risks associated with the use of these fillers.

Any soft tissue filler can cause long-term side effects, permanent side effects, or both. However, most side effects associated with soft tissue fillers happen shortly after injection and most go away in less than two weeks.

Swelling and pain after hand treatment may last a month or more. In some cases, side effects may appear weeks, months, or years after injection.

Among the rare side effects reported to the FDA are severe allergic reactions which require immediate emergency medical assistance, migration or movement of filler material from the site of injection, leakage, or rupture of the filler material at the injection site or through the skin (which may result from tissue reaction or infection).

There were also rare reports of formation of permanent hard nodules in the face or hand, vision abnormalities, including blindness, stroke, injury to the blood supply, and damage to the skin or the lips.

Recent reports by the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Inc. and published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. showed that with the rising popularity of soft tissue fillers has led to a rise in reports of adverse events.

The study conducted a literature review of the reported cases of blindness after the filler injection. The study also examined some prevention and management strategies that may be done.

The results were as follows:

  • 98 cases of vision changes from filler were identified.
  • The sites that were high risk for complications were the glabella (38.8%), nasal region (25.5%), nasolabial fold (13.3%), and forehead (12.2%).
  • Autologous fat (47.9%) was the most common filler type to cause this complication, followed by hyaluronic acid (23.5%).
  • The most common symptoms were immediate vision loss and pain and most of the cases of vision loss did not recover.
  • Central nervous system complications were seen in 23.5% of the cases. No treatments were found to be consistently successful in treating blindness.

Even though the risk of blindness from fillers is rare, researchers concluded that it is critical for injecting physicians to have a firm knowledge of the vascular anatomy and to understand key prevention and management strategies.

originally posted at medicalspamd.com


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Blue eyes were not always around!

Before we get into that, let’s talk about the science behind blue eyes and why they look blue.The iris is made up of two separate layers: the epithelium in the back and the stroma in the front. The epithelium is composed of black-brown pigments and is only two cells thick. Some people have dark specks in their eyes. This is the epithelium showing through.The stroma is made of colorless collagen fibers. Sometimes the pigment melanin is present, and sometimes it contains excess collagen deposits. It is these two things, melanin and collagen, the determine the color of a person’s eyes.


According to Science Alert“Blue eyes are potentially the most fascinating, as their colour is entirely structural. People with blue eyes have a completely colourless stroma with no pigment at all, and it also contains no excess collagen deposits. This means that all the light that enters it is scattered back into the atmosphere, and as a result of the Tyndall effect, creates a blue hue. Interestingly, this means that blue eyes do not actually have a set colour — It all depends on the amount of light available when you look at them.”

If you think about that for a second, it is really awesome!

However, where did blue eyes come from?

According to recent research, all people with blue eyes come from one common ancestor!

“New research shows that people with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor. Scientists have tracked down a genetic mutation which took place 6,000-10,000 years ago and is the cause of the eye color of all blue-eyed humans alive on the planet today.” (Source)

It should also be noted that even though blue eyes are becoming more and more rare, it is unlikely that they will disappear forever. (Can you believe they started from one person!)

Originally posted at davidwolfe.com


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Light Therapy to Restore Sight

Scientists testing a groundbreaking light therapy to restore the sight of blind people

Originally posted at businessinsider.com by Tanya Lewis

Light: In a medical first, doctors in Texas are planning to use a groundbreaking neuroscience technique to attempt to restore the sight of blind people sometime in the next month, MIT Technology Review reports.

The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based startup RetroSense Therapeutics aims to use a technique known as optogenetics, which involves modifying neurons so they can be turned on or off using light.

The technique has been demonstrated in mice andmonkeys, but this would be the first time it’s been used in humans.

According to Tech Review, the trial is being carried out by the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, and will involve 15 patients with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition where the light-sensitive cells of the eye (the retina) degenerate, causing patients to lose peripheral and night vision and eventually go blind.

Treating blindness with light

mouse brain optogenetics

Optogenetics involves infecting brain cells with a virus that has been programmed to carry a gene for a light-sensitive protein found in algae, called channelrhodopsin. Once the cells are infected, they can be turned “on” or “off” in response to light of a certain color, or wavelength.

Typically, scientists must implant fiber-optic wires into an animal’s brain in order to access these light-sensitive neurons. But the eye is an ideal target for the first optogenetic therapies, because it is already exposed to light and doesn’t require any wires or brain surgery.

The plan is to inject a virus containing the light-sensitive gene into neurons in the eye called ganglion cells, which transmit signals from the retina to the brain. Since the patients’ retinas are damaged, the hope is that you can bypass these cells and make the ganglion cells directly responsive to light.

The patients in the RetroSense trial may not be completely blind, but they can’t see much except a hand moving in front of their face. RetroSense CEO Sean Ainsworth told Tech Review he hopes the treatment will allow patients to “see tables and chairs” or even read large letters.

The beginning of new brain treatments

However, since the channelrhodopsin protein can only respond to light of a single color (in this case, blue light), scientists believe the patients will only see the world in monochrome. It’s not clear how they will perceive color, or whether they will be able to see some colors at all (without them appearing black).

Whether the trial will be a success remains to be seen, but it’s an exciting prospect. And scientists are already exploring how optogenetics can be used to treat other disorders. For example, Menlo Park, California-based company Circuit Therapeutics has plans develop optogenetic treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

And it might happen sooner than we think. Antonello Bonci, a neuroscientist and scientific director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore, told Tech Review that optogenetic brain treatments could be as close as five years away.

Originally posted at businessinsider.com by Tanya Lewis


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7 Healthy Foods Beyond Carrots for Healthy Eyes

7 Healthy Foods Beyond Carrots for Healthy Eyes

originally posted at huffingtonpost.com by Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler


You have likely heard of degenerative diseases such as cataracts, keratoconus and macular degeneration. For preventative measures, I am sure you know salmon is good for your heart and oatmeal for your cholesterol, but did you know that certain foods (other than carrots) can also improve your eye health? According to a studyby the National Eye Institute, foods high in antioxidants such as omega-3 fatty acids, glutathione, zinc and vitamins C and E may reduce the risk of certain diseases.

Here are 7 healthy foods that healthy eyes crave:

  1. Seafood: Fish contains some of the highest levels of quality omega-3 essential fatty acids, in addition to being very tasty! Including omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can support proper visual development and retinal function over time. If you don’t like the taste of fish, raw almonds are a great alternative to incorporate omega-3s into your diet.
  2. Orange and Grapefruit Juice: In addition to fighting immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems and skin wrinkling, Vitamin C has been shown to help lower the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. One cup of orange juice packs 124 milligrams of vitamin C and grapefruit juice has 94 milligrams.
  3. Eggs: If there is one universal nutritional factor for eye health, it’s glutathione — a natural antioxidant. Glutathione has been shown to help prevent cataracts, glaucoma, retinal disease and diabetic blindness. Eggs are a great natural source, but if you can’t stomach them, look to get your Glutathione from vitamins.
  4. Oysters: Oysters, poultry, milk, shellfish, baked beans and whole grains are great sources of zinc. Lack of zinc can lead to cataracts or night vision, a condition associated with blurred vision, halos and night blindness.
  5. Kale: This leafy vegetable is one of the healthiest foods for your body, including your eyes. Kale has high levels of Vitamin E, which can protect your eyes from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules which break down healthy tissue in the body. Kale is easy to add to smoothies for a nutritional boost or can be used as a side salad with any meal! My kids love “kale chips,” which my wife and I make by lightly baking them in the oven.
  6. Pork: An often overlooked yet equally important nutrient for your eye health is zinc. Pork meat has high levels of zinc, which plays a key role in bringing Vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce melanin — a protective pigment in the eyes. If you do not eat pork or are a vegetarian, chicken and cashews are excellent alternatives. Now you have a good excuse to indulge in BBQ ribs!
  7. Camu camu: This Brazilian superfruit is a newcomer to the American market, and it packs the highest vitamin C content of any fruit on the planet. Vitamin C plays a key role in lowering your risk for developing cataracts and can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration while protecting against visual acuity loss.

originally posted at huffingtonpost.com by Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler