From novel rehabilitation protocols to visual aid systems for low vision people through Virtual Reality – DEVISE
Context: More than one million persons in France are blind in the central part of their visual field because of a non-curable retinopathy (mainly Age related Macular Degeneration - AMD). This central field loss induces dramatic deficits in several high-level perceptual abilities: mainly text reading, face recognition, and visual search of objects in cluttered environments, thus degrading the autonomy and the quality of life of these people. To adapt to this irreversible handicap, visually impaired people have to use the peripheral parts of their visual field optimally. This requires the development of an “eccentric viewing (EV)” ability allowing low vision persons to “look away” from the entity (e.g., a face) they want to identify or observe. Two solutions are commonly proposed to help patients cope with their handicap: visual rehabilitation methods (that aim to improve EV efficiency across multiple sessions) and visual aids (that aim to improve immediate patients’ perception, e.g., with magnifiers).
Objectives and challenges: The theoretical basis of DEVISE is that an efficient improvement of EV should target one of the most fundamental visuomotor functions in humans: pointing at targets with an appropriate combination of hand, head, and eyes. In DEVISE, we claim that this function should be re-adapted and assisted in priority thanks to (1) a rehabilitation solution based on an innovative interface (developed by our group and called “smart pointing and augmentation”- SPA) to improve the visuo-motor functions necessary for efficient EV, and (2) a visual aid solution, based on the same pointing principles, allowing autonomous interaction with the environment. These two solutions will be developed in a unified Virtual Reality (VR) E-health framework allowing patients and vision care professionals to easily use our solutions in synergy. DEVISE will capitalise on the numerous advantages of VR, and notably the possibility to experience and practice complex interactive pointing behaviours. Using this VR framework, DEVISE will address three challenges:
- A scientific challenge: revisit theories about EV (mostly based on data with a fixed head), by psychophysical investigation of patient’s ability to interact through head-free pointing tasks with a VR environment.
- A medical challenge: design and test novel strategies for visual rehabilitation and visual aids where patients will perform head-free SPA tasks to better identify objects and words.
- An ergonomics challenge: develop innovative human-machine interfaces and serious games, allowing patients to easily and playfully use SPA tools within a unified VR system. These developments will be inspired by methods used in the video game industry to incorporate accessibility issues that are essential for patients.
Impact: The scientific and medical impact of DEVISE will be the establishment of new norms about the development of efficient EV strategies based on enjoyable VR interfaces and games. The societal impact of DEVISE will rely on new solutions adapted for patients and allowing them to improve their visual perception and empowerment. Finally, great care will be taken to disseminate DEVISE results toward the general public by providing demonstrators in public festivals and by organising meetings with patients’ associations.
Consortium: This VR platform will be developed by a pluridisciplinary consortium made of three partners that combine expertise in visual neuroscience (CNRS/Aix Marseille University - AMU, Cognitive Psychology Laboratory, coordinator), in computer vision (Inria Sophia Antipolis, Biovision team), and VR ergonomics (AMU, Mediterranean Virtual Reality Center). Importantly, DEVISE will benefit from the involvement of a clinical centre specialised in retinopathies, the Monticelli-Paradis Ophthalmology Center (MPOC), that will enable us to clinically test the efficiency and usability of our prototypes with patients over the project lifetime.
Monsieur Eric Castet (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Délégation Provence et Corse Laboratoire de psychologie cognitive)
The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.
Inria Centre de Recherche Inria Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée
CNRS DR12 LPC Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Délégation Provence et Corse Laboratoire de psychologie cognitive
ISM Institut des sciences du mouvement - Etienne-Jules Marey
Help of the ANR 701,397 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 48 Months