UXPA Boston 2018 Annual Conference Speech: Through Their Eyes

I worked on this research with my supervisor to explore how a User Experience designer can leverage Virtual Reality technology to advance accessibility while I was working at Boston Interactive, a digital marketing company as a UX intern.  This project provides various case studies, explains how our company action on raising the awareness of UX accessibility and offers a few ways to have your own VR eye disease simulation.

We were proudly presenting at UXPA(User Experience Professionals Association) Boston Annual Conference with my supervisor in May 2018. UXPA is founded in 1991, it promotes UX concepts and techniques through its annual international/regional conference. Boston Chapter has approximate 4,500 members.  It has over 1000 attendees for the annual conference event in 2018.

In today’s world, there are many technologies, facilities and websites aware and adapt accessibility to create a better user experience and access to equality.  As virtual reality became a hot subject in recent few years, VR accessibility with eye impairments is one of raising questions. Is it good or bad? Is it help or damage our eyes? The mostly how eye impairment users see through VR headset?

Here are some examples of visual impairments simulation view with see-through VR display. From normal view …

VR headset view overlay w image.png(Normal View with VR headset on)

… to Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy, Glaucoma, Cataracts, Colorblindness(protanopia) and Diplopia.

VR headset view overlay w Macular Degeneration.png(VR View with Macular Degeneration)

Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans. More than cataracts and glaucoma combined.  It is considered an incurable eye disease. Macular degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina. The retina’s central portion, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail.

VR headset view overlay w diabetic retinopathy.png(VR View with Diabetic Retinopathy)

It occurs up to 80% of people who have had diabetes for 20 years or more due to high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels can swell and leak, or even have new blood vessels grow on the retina that all of these changes can reduce your vision. Each year in the United States, diabetic retinopathy accounts for 12% of all new cases of blindness.

VR headset view overlay w glaucoma.png(VR View with Glaucoma)

Edge blurring is one of the common symptoms in the population suffering from Glaucoma. This eye diseases result in damage to the optic nerve and vision loss. It usually happens when fluid builds up in the front part of your eye. The extra fluid increases the pressure in your eye damaging the optic nerve. Other risk factors include a family history of the condition, migraines, high blood pressure, and obesity.

VR headset view overlay w cararact.png(VR View with Cataracts)

Our clear natural lens in our eyes became cloudy. Things look blurry, hazy or less colorful with a cataract. This eye disease mostly age-related develop gradually that you might not notice signs or changes right away when it first develops.

VR headset view overlay w colorblind(Protanopia).png
(VR View with Color-blindness of Protanopia)

Color blindness is also called color vision deficiency were decreased the ability to see color or differences in color. Most common colors to distinguish are between greens and reds, occasionally blues. It usually an inherited fault due to the genes responsible for the most common forms of color blindness is on the X chromosome.

VR headset view overlay w Diplopia.png(VR View with Diplopia)

Diplopia is usually called double vision, as it means having two images on one object. Extraocular muscles impair function that both eyes cannot target the desired object, Your brain has a complex process that requires that many parts of your vision that to work together smoothly. When you see double, it means there is a problem.

VR headsets contain two small LCD monitors, each projected at one eye, creating a stereoscopic effect which gives users the illusion of depth. We’ve all experience eye strain after focused on one object for an extended amount of time, as in watching a long movie or staring at your computer or smartphone all day. A raising question for this new VR technology trend – Can VR headsets cause digital eye strain, too? The early immersive VR environments were targeting on video gaming markets, so young age kids are major crowded exposure to danger. It could lead myopia, nearsightedness and digital eye strain as the survey shows 26% gamers under the age of 18 and focus, tracking and depth perception is still developing into middle childhood.

Other concerns on Virtual reality sickness, and problems with the 3D stereoscopic of our eyes to keep both eye vision steady. The image render poorly could also give brain and visual signals motion sickness, it makes the viewer feel dizzy, nauseous even headache. Staring at VR headset screen for a long period of time, just like on other digital devices, phone, iPad, computer or TV would make you blink less so that your eye feels dry and fatigue. As some research results, VR might not as harmful as we think. For example, individual who has amblyopia (an imbalance in visual strength between the two eyes), strabismus(misaligned eyes), or other conditions that prohibit focusing, depth perception or normal 3D vision may not experience the 3D effects of VR headsets. That does not mean that vision disorders can be caused by VR headsets.

Virtual Reality brings some negative effects. However, many people are trying to use this “disadvantage” change to a positive side. IrisVision developed an affordable medical device for Macular Degeneration by using virtual reality technology from Samsung and innovative custom software. It replaced the bulky and expensive magnifiers and magnifying lamps with customizing feature, lightweight and portable gear. Frank Werblin, a professor of neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley who is behind of Visionize designing the software to help low vision patients by clip their smartphone on the headwear, smartphone camera takes real-time images of user’s surrounding and magnifies the seeing. The user can also adjust the magnification strength. For incurable eye disease and people who are conservative about eye surgery, this product would be a good option for them.

The Ngoggle team from San Diego created this program to assist diagnose ophthalmology.  They use Oculus gear VR device with this back strap can collect electroencephalogram changes while playing images to stimulate vision. This product is currently under clinic test, requesting investment from US government as well as international patents.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals cooperated with InTouch Solutions have created an AR and VR app called “In My Eyes” that allows viewers to experience different types of retinal disease. The app is like a story mode that you can choose the patient has certain eye disease than to see through their vision. There are three disease features displaying includes age-related macular, diabetic macular edema and macular edema following retinal vein occlusion. The app also provides a live view with different eye disease condition as well.

Please check out the presentation slides with this link: UXPA_SeeingThroughTheirEyesV4IMG_5197


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