There may be light at the end of the tunnel for people with a certain vision problem — tunnel vision. Researchers have come up with and tested a device for this vision problem that could provide a helpful aid for a lot of individuals who suffer from this condition.
Picture a long tunnel ahead of you with only darkness when you turn side to side. That’s sort of what people with tunnel vision experience: they have no peripheral vision and can only see straight ahead. This can be a major problem when in poor light. This condition has a myriad of causes, including “retinitis pigmentosa” (a disorder affecting the retina), glaucoma, severe cataracts, some drugs, and situations related to loss of blood to the brain (e.g. altitude sickness or diving).
The study, out of Boston, Massachusetts, involved the latest device developed for tunnel vision sufferers. It consists of a camera, computer, and a see-through display placed on the head of the person. How does it work? Well, it picks up objects outside the person’s vision with the camera and then projects their outlines onto the screen. Once an object is picked up, the patient, guided by crosshairs, turns their head until the object enters their central vision.
This device was tested on 12 patients with tunnel vision. The subjects were put in front of a large gray screen and asked to find a letter that was projected in their peripheral vision zone. Some patients used the device, some were given audio cues, and some were left unaided. Out of the 12, three patients were tested on a 90-degree by 74-degree screen and nine on a 66-degree by 52-degree screen.
When it came to the smaller screen, there was a 22% decrease in the time spent searching for the letter for those with the device compared to those without any aid (the results for the people given the audio cues were comparable to those of the device users). The tunnel-vision patients tested on the larger screen had even more impressive results — the time they spent searching for the letter was reduced by 28 to 74%, compared to the subjects without assistance.
Researchers noted that there was a decrease in the speed of head and eye movement in the patients using the device. This only seems natural, though, when you have an unfamiliar object mounted on your head. The patients in the study were only given an hour of training, so it would be interesting to see the results of a study in which tunnel- vision sufferers are more familiar with the use of this device.
For this reason, and because the study was quite small, more research is needed before we see this device for people with tunnel vision enter the market.