!"#$%&'()*++,"-./01'",&'( Total or near total blindness results in severe disability in spatial orientation and greatly restricts mobility. The National Eye Institute has identified as a priority the development of new technology for improving access of blind persons to navigation resources. This application seeks support for the development of a lightweight, wearable vision aid that will convey rudimentary information about light and reflectance to blind users through sound delivered through open ear headphones. Our approach deviates sharply from most previous efforts to develop electronic vision substitution systems in that our device will deliver to the user only very basic optical information, in a sonic format that requires minimal attentional resources. The system, using a spectacle- mounted camera that can be steered with head motion, will convey to the user the locations of high contrast shapes, edges, and lights. We expect that this information will be easily and naturally integrated with existing sensory experience of the environment, allowing it to supplement and reinforce rather than replace or interfere with other sensory and cognitive information about the user?s surroundings. Phase I will build a prototype using a head-mounted camera and a portable microcomputer, and test feasibility of the basic concept with spatial orientation, navigation, and screen-based psychophysical tests using blind participants. These within-subjects studies will compare performance with and without the device. The long-term objective of this research is to develop a rehabilitation aid that can promote independence and enhance quality of life for blind persons. !
This application proposes to develop a novel rehabilitation aid for blind persons. This device will provide cues that can enhance orientation; increase users awareness of their surroundings; and aid in navigation; thus enhancing accessibility of the environment. This will allow severely visually impaired people greater confidence and independence in mobility and improved quality of life.