June 2023
Volume 64, Issue 8
Open Access
ARVO Annual Meeting Abstract  |   June 2023
Functional Performance of a Vibro-tactile Sensory Substitution Device in People with Profound Vision Loss
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Rui Jin
    Optometry and Vision Science, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Sam Stefopoulos
    Bionic Vision Technologies, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Xerxes Battiwalla
    Bionic Vision Technologies, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Jennifer McGinley
    Department of Physiotherapy, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Tomislav Bacek
    Department of Physiotherapy, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Chris McCarthy
    School of Software and Electrical Engineering, Engineering & Technology, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Matthew A. Petoe
    Bionic Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    Medical Bionics Department, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Lauren N. Ayton
    Optometry and Vision Science, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    Centre for Eye Research Australia Ltd, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Footnotes
    Commercial Relationships   Rui Jin None; Sam Stefopoulos Bionic Vision Technologies, Code E (Employment); Xerxes Battiwalla Bionic Vision Technologies, Code E (Employment); Jennifer McGinley None; Tomislav Bacek None; Chris McCarthy None; Matthew Petoe Bionic Vision Technologies, Code F (Financial Support); Lauren Ayton Novartis, Code F (Financial Support), Novartis, Code R (Recipient), Apellis, Code R (Recipient), Australian College of Optometry, Code S (non-remunerative)
  • Footnotes
    Support  None
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science June 2023, Vol.64, 2440. doi:
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      Rui Jin, Sam Stefopoulos, Xerxes Battiwalla, Jennifer McGinley, Tomislav Bacek, Chris McCarthy, Matthew A. Petoe, Lauren N. Ayton; Functional Performance of a Vibro-tactile Sensory Substitution Device in People with Profound Vision Loss. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2023;64(8):2440.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Purpose : Reduced social engagement is a significant issue for people with vision loss. Traditional aids such as long canes and guide dogs are still the mainstay of support for mobility but are unable to detect people and faces. Emerging technologies such as sensory substitution devices (SSDs) are gaining wide-spread interest in the low vision community and may be able to provide cues for detection of people. The aim of this project was to assess the efficacy of a prototype vibro-tactile SSD to enable face detection for people with profound vision loss.

Methods : The face detection task was a forced choice design, where the participants were asked to step toward the first face they detected using the device, and then count the number of faces present. Retro-reflective markers were placed on participants’ bodies to track their movement using a Vicon system (Oxford, UK), to give a measure of reaction time and location accuracy. Qualitative exit interviews provided user experience data.

Results : Data were collected from 7 people with low vision and 4 orientation and mobility experts with simulated low vision. All participants had natural or occluded visual acuity of light perception or worse. Participants showed a significant improvement in face detection rate (p=0.025) when the device was on, compared to the device was off (fig 1). As the task only required the participants to step towards faces that they could detect, the movement analysis is only for trials when the device was on. The average response time was 10.5 s ± 5.9 s. The average first stride length was 43.8 cm ± 12.6 cm. The average angular difference between participants’ first response step and the identified face direction was within 20 degrees (18.9 degrees ± 5.9 degrees).

Conclusions : This study has shown the vibro-tactile SSD prototype has the potential to improve functional outcomes (i.e., face detection), even with brief training (<10 minutes). Qualitative interviews with the participants found that they felt more training would aid them to better interpret the SSD spatial information and improve localization. Future studies will look at training requirements for this tactile SSD.

This abstract was presented at the 2023 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in New Orleans, LA, April 23-27, 2023.

 

Figure 1: Percentage of trials where the number of faces present was correctly identified. 20% Device OFF trials were zero faces, so the 20% success rate with device OFF is misleading. LV= low vison participant, OM= orientation and mobility instructor

Figure 1: Percentage of trials where the number of faces present was correctly identified. 20% Device OFF trials were zero faces, so the 20% success rate with device OFF is misleading. LV= low vison participant, OM= orientation and mobility instructor

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