The statistics are just as daunting in the United States. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), approximately 1.7 million Americans have some form of AMD. Mark Humayun, an AMD expert in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Keck School of Medicine of USC, predicts that by 2020, that number will climb to nearly 3 million. At the same time, an additional 8 million people will have clinical signs of AMD.
The NIH project will concentrate on designing visual displays that will help these people, who have lost their central vision and must rely on peripheral vision to see.
We plan to use some of the techniques of computer vision and computational neuroscience to build visual displays that will enhance certain parts of an image enough so that a person with AMD will be able to digest the visual information better, Grzywacz said. We arent concerned with the optics of the eye in low vision that can be corrected with glasses or surgery. Rather, our preoccupation is with the nervous system and the way in which the brain processes information.
The nervous system has been damaged in people with low vision and lacks some kinds of neurons that process information, he said. In AMD, for example, people lack central photoreceptors, the neurons that transduce light energy into electrochemical signals, the means of brain communication. Grzywacz hopes to design visual displays that will compensate for that neural loss.
As part of the work, engineering faculty in USCs Center for Vision Science and Technology will improve visual displays in two ways: first, they will enhance contrast in scenes and suppress background noise (irrelevant details) that might confuse a visually-impaired person; second, they will design displays that brighten the contours of objects in a scene, creating a cartoon of outlines that would be more recognizable by someone with poor eyesight.
Gerard Medioni of the
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University of Southern California