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Amy Nau, Michael Bach, Christopher Fisher; Clinical Tests of Ultra-Low Vision Used to Evaluate Rudimentary Visual Perceptions Enabled by the BrainPort Vision Device. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2013;2(3):1. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.2.3.1.
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We evaluated whether existing ultra-low vision tests are suitable for measuring outcomes using sensory substitution. The BrainPort is a vision assist device coupling a live video feed with an electrotactile tongue display, allowing a user to gain information about their surroundings.
We enrolled 30 adult subjects (age range 22–74) divided into two groups. Our blind group included 24 subjects (n = 16 males and n = 8 females, average age 50) with light perception or worse vision. Our control group consisted of six subjects (n = 3 males, n = 3 females, average age 43) with healthy ocular status. All subjects performed 11 computer-based psychophysical tests from three programs: Basic Assessment of Light Motion, Basic Assessment of Grating Acuity, and the Freiburg Vision Test as well as a modified Tangent Screen. Assessments were performed at baseline and again using the BrainPort after 15 hours of training.
Most tests could be used with the BrainPort. Mean success scores increased for all of our tests except contrast sensitivity. Increases were statistically significant for tests of light perception (8.27 ± 3.95 SE), time resolution (61.4% ± 3.14 SE), light localization (44.57% ± 3.58 SE), grating orientation (70.27% ± 4.64 SE), and white Tumbling E on a black background (2.49 logMAR ± 0.39 SE). Motion tests were limited by BrainPort resolution.
Tactile-based sensory substitution devices are amenable to psychophysical assessments of vision, even though traditional visual pathways are circumvented.
This study is one of many that will need to be undertaken to achieve a common outcomes infrastructure for the field of artificial vision.
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