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UA researchers turn mobile phones into electronic glasses for the visually impaired




Alicante, 4 May 2015

Researchers at the University of Alicante's Mobile Vision Research Group along with Neosiste have developed a free app that turns mobile phones into electronic glasses improving vision to the visually impaired.

"SuperVisión para Cardboard” is the name of the app, which can be downloaded onto Android devices via the Google Play platform, and it is aimed at people with visual difficulties, such as eyestrain, myopia, and even those suffering more severe pathologies such as macular degeneration, ie, eye disorder that slowly destroys central and sharp vision, which complicates reading and viewing fine details or people with a vision of the environment to 15 percent (visual rest), as explained by research group director Dr. Miguel Angel Lozano.

According to main researcher Dr. Juan Manuel Saez, the device has several functions and can be used directly from mobiles or with a "cardboard", a virtual reality device created by Google consisting of a carcase where users can insert their mobile with integrated lens, which turns any phone with Android technology into virtual reality glasses. Thus, with the combination of these two elements, users with visual impairment can control and improve at their benefit colour image (up to 9-range spectra), zoom and contrast.

Another striking aspect of the application is that it can be converted into a pair of bifocal glasses as this technology automatically detects when users need to move a picture closer or enlarge it. So in this way, if for example, a student is facing the blackboard, the zoom will be automatically activated, and if the look down to take notes or reading, the device will suit their movements and enlarge the text they are looking at, as explained by tenured lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Intelligence Artificial and member of the research group Dr. Francisco Escolano.

This app has been successfully tested by members of Murcia Retina Affected Association (Retimur) and the Spanish Association for the Blind -ONCE- has collaborated.

This innovative technology is part of broader research aimed at making mobile phones find objects, which has been funded by the Ministry for Competitiveness for the period 2013-15. In 2013, the research group was awarded with Vodafone Foundation Innovation and Telecommunications Award for an application for detecting aerial obstacles.


Images by courtesy of Agencia EFE



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