Researchers have developed a miniature camera that can be mounted onto the eyeglasses of people who are legally blind -- vision with 20/200 or worse in the better eye -- and dramatically improve their ability to read an email or a newspaper article.
Made using optical character-recognition technology, the artificial vision device can be easily mounted onto the eyeglasses and works either by pointing at an item, tapping on it, or pressing a trigger button.
A wire attaches the device to a small pack containing its battery and computer. It recognises text and reads it to the user using an earpiece that transmits sound, and can also be programmed to recognise faces and commercial products.
The camera device offers hope to patients with age-related macular degeneration -- leading cause of permanent impairment of reading and fine or close-up vision in the elderly -- who are beyond medical or surgical therapy for the condition, researchers said.
Â"The device offers new hope for the large and growing number of individuals with age-related macular degeneration or advanced-stage glaucoma, two of the leading causes of vision loss among the elderly,Â" said one of the researchers Mark Mannis, professor at University of California in the US.
The device, which can be carried, fit into a pocket or attached to a belt, can also help older adults who are struggling with vision loss to better perform daily activities and could potentially bring greater independence, the researchers added in the paper published online in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.
The team conducted a pilot study and analysed 12 participants with low vision, six men and six women, with an average age of 62. Using the device, the study participants were significantly better able to perform activities of daily living.
"Our results show that it can be a very useful aid for patients with low vision in performing activities of daily living, and increase their functional independence," said another researcher Elad Moisseiev.