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Blind

Diabetic retinopathy is one of a number of nasty effects diabetes can have on the human body. The disease sees the development of leaky blood vessels in the eye that over time lead to permanent loss of vision. Though it is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in American adults, its progress can be slowed by certain drugs or laser treatment. But research has now uncovered a new protein found to drive the condition, raising the possibility of preventing it altogether.

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We've already seen experimental "white canes" that allow blind users to get a sense of their surroundings via ultrasound and lasers. Birmingham City University's XploR mobility cane, however, uses its onboard electronics towards another end – to help users locate people that they know.

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Researchers at the University of Tokyo have successfully used geomagnetic compasses to help blind rats navigate with a similar level of success to their fully-sighted counterparts. The team believes that the technology may be useful in helping blind people move around more freely. Read More
For people with reduced vision, getting around safely without walking into obstacles can be tricky. Those with decent central vision but whose peripheral sight is fading or lost are particularly at risk because they aren't conditioned to be alert for oncoming dangers they can't see. But a new pocket-sized device that sits on a person's chest may make walking much safer for these people and others with visual impairments by warning of impending collisions. Read More
Although blind people are generally capable of going about things unaided, there are times when seeing something is a necessity. A new mobile app aims to help the blind in those situations. Be My Eyes connects individuals in need of visual assistance with sighted volunteers via a video call. Read More
A new genetic therapy that helped blind mice and dogs respond to light stimulus could restore sight to people who suffer from diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa (a gradual loss of vision from periphery inwards). The therapy uses chemicals known as photoswitches, which change shape when hit with light, to open the channels that activate retinal cells. Treated mice can distinguish between steady and flashing light, while dogs with late-stage retinal degeneration also regain some sensitivity to light. Read More
Getting around unfamiliar public spaces can be tough even with all your senses, but if you can't see where you're going it's downright intimidating. A new multi-sensory model promises a brighter future, though, with 3D maps that give spoken directions and building information when touched. The technology comes courtesy of a collaboration between tactile-graphics company Touch Graphics and the University of Buffalo's Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center), and while it was designed specifically to help visually-impaired people, it's also meant to show off the potential of tangible touch interfaces. Read More
While the act of walking down the street might be second nature to most of us, it can be a much more difficult experience for those who are blind or visually impaired. To combat the issue, Microsoft has developed a headset that uses bone-conducting audio, creating a 3D soundscape to safely guide users to their destinations. Read More
With their GPS capabilities and navigation apps, smartphones have undoubtedly made it easier for us to find our way around. The good news is we are starting to see these benefits extended to the visually impaired. SightCompass is a system that harnesses these strengths of the smartphone and combines them with proximity beacons to inform blind people of their surroundings. Read More
Currently, people with glaucoma must have their internal optic pressure (the pressure within their eye) regularly checked by a specialist. If that IOP gets too high, then steps need to be taken to lower it, before vision damage can occur. The problem is, the pressure can change quickly, potentially rising to dangerous levels between those checks. A new implant, however, could make it possible for patients to check their own IOP as often as they like, using their smartphone. Read More
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