Evaluation of an augmented reality low vision aid for children and young people with visual impairment
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.
CYP with a moderate or severe VI have some vision but the image can be very blurry. Low vision aids (e.g., optical magnifiers) can improve CYP’s functional vision (i.e., what an individual can actually see). Low vision aids therefore have the potential to significantly improve independent living, access to education/work, and quality of life. However, current low vision aids are very limited in their functionality and are largely unsuitable for the types of activities CYP typically engage in, such as school lessons and playing a musical instrument.
SightPlus is a hands-free, head-mounted, digital low vision aid for CYP and adults with VI. SightPlus was developed by an SME called Give Vision.
SightPlus combines augmented and virtual reality by using the backlit screen of a mobile phone, placed inside a virtual reality headset, to display augmented imagery of what the user is looking at. SightPlus has various modes depending on the user’s needs and enables users to see clearly both up close and at a distance. SightPlus therefore enables individuals to use their residual sight to regain functional vision, empowering users to engage in a wide range of daily activities.
While SightPlus had been clinically validated for adults with a VI at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the device had not been clinically tested with CYP.
STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT BEFORE WORKING WITH NIHR CYP MEDTECH
SUPPORT PROVIDED BY NIHR CYP MEDTECH
NIHR CYP MedTech facilitated a collaboration between Give Vision and the ophthalmology clinical team at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.
NIHR CYP MedTech supported the project team by identifying relevant funding calls and leading on the successful grant application.
NIHR CYP MedTech are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day management of the project.
The project team has finished patient recruitment for a study at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. Data has been obtained and analysis is ongoing to determine for the first time whether SightPlus is clinically beneficial for CYP with a moderate or severe VI. A patient and public involvement focus group has been organised to share the results with CYP and their parents and to get feedback on how the outcomes should be disseminated.
The study at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust is enabling the team find out whether SightPlus can improve the vision and quality of life of CYP with a VI. The device has the potential to enable CYP to engage in a range of activities that they may have previously struggled with, as well as to improve access to education, independence, and overall quality of life.
The project team team successfully won funding from The Children’s Hospital Charity to evaluate SightPlus at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. If this initial study shows that SightPlus is effective for CYP, the project team will apply for additional funding to assess the device at multiple NHS sites.
Last updated: 18 May 2022