Beyond Glasses: How Visual Impairment Will Become a Thing of the Past

By Navid Amini, Research Assistant Professor at UCLA Stein Eye Institute

Each year nearly five million people are affected by hemianopia, a condition that impairs the visual field by one half in both eyes, mostly as a result of strokes and to a lesser extent, brain tumors or trauma. With an aging population and improvements in emergency care for stroke victims, the incidence of hemianopia is likely to increase. Unlike many motor and cognitive impairments caused by focal brain injury, spontaneous improvement in hemianopia is rare. Hemianopia can affect the ability to read, walk, or drive and may result in injuries due to the inability to navigate around obstacles. Hemianopia can cause difficulties evaluating the environment, trouble crossing the street, bumping into objects, detecting hazards, and risk of falling.


Various devices have been proposed to expand the visual field in hemianopic stroke patients; however, they are known to cause troubling visual side effects such as double vision. The purpose of our EyeSee project is to design, test, and deploy a vision enhancement and rehabilitation technology for hemianopia that combines a smartphone and a camera-enabled head-mounted display (HMD). EyeSee improves hemianopic patients’ comprehension of the environment by providing supplemental visual information without requiring the patients to look away from their usual viewpoint. With EyeSee, hemianopic patients will be able to make real-time decisions based on their perception of objects not normally visible to them.

Hemi-1EyeSee takes advantage of the image processing power of commercially available head-mounted displays and the presence of robust cellular networks to realize remote rehabilitation services. Our assistive technology provides hemianopic patients with supplementary visual information through an intuitive user interface based on a user-selectable visual field expansion method and the lighting conditions. The technology utilizes data intensive image processing techniques that produce unambiguous and timely spatial information in the form of successive frames that are displayed in real time on the screen of the head-mounted displays to widen hemianopic patients’ available field of vision. The patients can control the display with a wirelessly connected smartphone, which allows for customization of the visual field expansion method.

With Project EyeSee, we are aiming to identify solutions for mobility training as well as independent living rehabilitation in the growing hemianopia population. This would help alleviate the difficulties in their vision-specific quality of life and maximize their residual vision so that affected patients can independently perform their activities of daily living.

The EyeSee project is a $200K winner in the 2016 Vodafone Americas Foundation Mobile Innovation Project, and is led by UCLA Stein Eye Institute‘s Research Assistant Professor, Navid Amini and Researcher, Clinton Thodos.