Evaluation of augmented reality low vision aids for children and young people with visual impairment

Thursday 17 June 2021

There are 24,500 children and young people (CYP) with a moderate or severe visual impairment (VI) in England, of which 9,535 are registered as blind or partially sighted. Living with a VI can negatively impact CYP’s social, educational, psychological, and physical development and quality of life. Low vision aids (e.g. optical magnifiers) can improve functional vision but are currently limited in their functionality since they are largely unsuitable for activities that CYP typically engage in, such as school lessons and playing a musical instrument.

NIHR Children and Young People MedTech Co-operative (NIHR CYP MedTech) has facilitated a collaboration between an SME, Give Vision, and the ophthalmology clinical team at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. Give Vision have created an innovative device called SightPlus, a hands-free, head-mounted, digital low vision aid for CYP and adults with VI. SightPlus enables individuals to use their residual sight to regain functional vision, empowering users to engage in a wide range of daily activities. Although SightPlus has been clinically validated for adults with a VI at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the device is yet to be clinically tested with CYP.

The project team have obtained funding from The Children’s Hospital Charity to determine if SightPlus can improve the vision and quality of life of CYP with a VI. The device has potential to enable CYP to perform a new range of activities which would result in improved access to education, independence and overall quality of life. So far, PPI focus groups have been performed with CYP and their carers to obtain feedback on information sheets and consent forms to be used for the study. This was crucial to ensure that the research documents to be used are suitable for CYP of different ages and visual abilities. These CYP were also very excited to take part in the research trial to test an innovative device that could significantly impact their lives. PPI focus groups will also be performed at the end of the study to get feedback on the study and ideas for dissemination of the results. If the initial study is successful, funding will be sought to trial the SightPlus device at multiple NHS sites across the UK.