The Blind May Find Hope in Device that Transforms Sounds into Images
The vOICe sensory substitution device is a revolutionary instrument that can aid blind individuals in utilizing sounds to create an image in their minds of their surroundings.
Led by Dr. Michael Prolx, a research team examined how blindfolded participants responded to an eye test while using the device. They were asked to perform a standard eye chart test that requires participants to view the letter E turned in four different directions and of varying size.
Even without any training in how to utilize the instrument, the participants were able to attain the highest performance achievable, nearly 20/400 vision. This limit appears to be the highest resolution currently possible with the constantly improving technology.
According to Dr. Michael Proulx, this level of visual performance goes far beyond that of current invasive approaches for vision restoration, such as retinal prostheses and stem cell implants.
He adds that a recent study discovered successful vision at a level of 20/800 following the employment of stem cells. Although this might improve over time and provide the literal sensation of sight, the more affordable and non-invasive nature of “The vOICe” provides a reasonable alternative.
Proulx concludes by stating, "Sensory substitution devices are not only an alternative, but might also be best employed in combination with such invasive techniques to train the brain to see again or for the first time."