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Machine offers legally blind view of world

Tue, 07/31/2012 - 10:40 -- admin

Scott Malon; Reuters; Cambridge; posted online at; June 11, 2006

Ms. Elizabeth Godring, a legally blind poet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) has designed a 'seeing machine' that allows people with limited vision to see faces of friends, or read and study the layouts of buildings they intend to visit.

Ms. Godring said that the advantage of such a display was that it cut out any extraneous stuff in one's peripheral vision with the image being directly projected onto the retina. The device, though not wearable and thus unable to aid one in crowded and unfamiliar places, would nonetheless help one study colour images such as printed words, pictures of people or room layouts. It is useful only for people with some living retina cells. It also enables a study of a three-dimensional computer rendering of a room or public place to familiarise oneself.

The device has been successfully tested on 10 people with limited vision and is indeed a sign of hope for about 1.3 million legally blind Americans, and other people with visual disability around the world. According to Mr. Darren Burton, National Programme Associate for Technology at the American Foundation for the Blind, in Huntington, West Virginia, other devices aimed to benefit people with limited vision work like a closed-circuit television, capturing an image with a camera and projecting it onto a video screen or video goggles. They do not directly project images onto the retina.

This 'seeing machine' is housed in a box measuring about 12 inches by 6 inches by 6 inches. It has an eyepiece and the picture can be navigated using a joystick. The manufacturing cost of the device has been estimated to be approximately $40,000 (a whooping Rupees 1,834,800). When plugged into a personal computer, it uses light-emitting diodes to project selected images.

It has been inspired by a medical device called a scanning laser opthalmoscope, which a doctor had used to examine Ms. Godring's eyes when she lost her vision.

With the prototype now working, Ms. Godring's next hurdle is to build a commercial version of this 'seeing machine'.

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