A new smartphone app launched today allows users to experience the world around them from the viewpoint of people experiencing various eye conditions.
The “Eyeware” app was developed in collaboration with leading sight loss charity, RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People). It applies virtual filters over the surrounding environment which mimic various conditions in real time. Users can experience conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, cataracts and glaucoma. The filters are being used at the Transport Systems Catapult, based in MK, to help design accessible transport systems within the organisation’s “Visualisation Laboratory”.
This unique facility is designed to help industry develop potential applications of the latest Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technology for the transport industry. The app is now being made available to the public as an educational tool, with the aim of increasing awareness of eye conditions. Project leader Martin Pett, Principle Technologist at the Transport Systems Catapult, explained: “Urban environments like stations and new technology, can be confusing for anyone, but the difficulties this causes can be increased 10-fold when someone is blind or partially sighted.
“Our app allows users to put themselves in the shoes of people with sight loss conditions, so they can make better decisions about accessibility.
“Not only are we aiming to raise awareness of these disabilities, but our app will also have practical applications.
“For instance, we are helping architects design stations that are easily navigable for people with sight loss and looking at ways to make self-driving cars more accessible.”
An RNIB statistics show that more than two million people in the UK are affected by sight loss. It is predicted that by 2050, the number of people with sight loss in the UK will double to nearly four million.
Findings from the RNIB’s 2015 ‘My Voice’ survey revealed that 40 per cent of blind and partially sighted people were not able to make all the journeys that they wanted or needed to because of lack of accessibility.John Worsfold, RNIB Implementation Manager, said: “There is huge potential for this app to raise awareness of what it might be like to have an eye condition both from an educational and practical standpoint.
“Eyeware can help friends and family better understand their loved ones’ condition, young people empathising with those suffering Visual Impairment to helping policy makers, architects and designers make better decisions in designing more inclusive goods and services such as urban environments and transportation.”
The Eyeware app is available for download from the Apple store and Google Play store. You can find out more at ts.catapult.org.uk/eyeware