School of Engineering


Augmented Vision for the visually impaired


Retinal degenerative disorders represent the primary cause of blindness in the developed world. In particular with our ageing society, we are seeing an increasing prevalence of age related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition which affects 25% of over 75’s. It causes the loss of the high resolution central vision, making it difficult to recognise faces, read and thus perform important daily tasks. This can lead to a loss in confidence and mobility which has a strong correlation with morbidity in the elderly.In previous work such as the €2.1M OptoNeuro project we have been exploring ways to improve the quality of information that would be transmitted through an imperfect retinal prosthesis. The same technology could be used to support those with partial vision los through advanced visual aid devices.  Conceptually such a system is described in Figure 1 below. Figure 1. Visual Assistive device concept. We will perform image processing of visual scenes to enhance key features and improve recognition of key features, aiding mobility and object recognition. For face recognition, a  key social task difficult for patients with AMD, we are incorporating an electronic face recognition system which can give auditory feedback.Objectives and Outcomes: The goal of the project was to test concepts in advanced visual aid devices on patients with macular degenerations, primarily age related. Two trials were performed in the Western Eye Hospital in London by PhD student Michael Evans (Newcastle) under direction of Dr Richard CheongLeen (Opthalmologist). The work is now being written up and research publications being explored.   Background: This project was to explore commercialisation of microphotonic arrays arising from the OptoNeuro EU project. Outcomes: A successful prototype was developed by the end of the project. Commercialisation is still being explored.