Top 5 Apps for Macular Degeneration Disease

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Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. At present, Macular Degeneration is considered an incurable eye disease. Macular Degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. 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.

One can compare the human eye to a camera. The macula is the central and most sensitive area of the so-called film. When it is working properly, the macula collects highly detailed images at the center of the field of vision and sends them up the optic nerve to the brain, which interprets them as sight.  When the cells of the macula deteriorate, images are not received correctly. In early stages, macular degeneration does not affect vision. Later, if the disease progresses, people experience wavy or blurred vision, and, if the condition continues to worsen, central vision may be completely lost. People with very advanced macular degeneration are considered legally blind. Even so, because the rest of the retina is still working, they retain their peripheral vision, which is not as clear as central vision.

Following are some of the apps used to assist people who are suffering from macular degeneration disease:

1: IrisVision

irisvision

It has been developed by CitrusBits. IrisVision is a medical device that is redefining low vision aids, and the most effective and affordable solution for Macular Degeneration. Its combination of revolutionary state-of the art virtual reality technology from Samsung and innovative custom software, developed in collaboration with the nation’s leading experts at the Johns Hopkins optical clinic, reduces hardware costs and provides an intuitive, customizable, and easy to use low vision aid – at a fraction of the cost of traditional magnifiers and products for the visually impaired.

With IrisVision’s powerful magnification capabilities, low vision patients can see the faces of loved ones, watch television, read books, and take back their independence, all without bulky and expensive magnifiers and magnifying lamps.

2: VoiceOver

voiceover

Apple Inc. has made a determined effort to improve accessibility of its products for the visually impaired. VoiceOver is one major step in this direction. It is Apple’s gesture-based screen reading software, and at its core, VoiceOver allows a visually impaired user to navigate all of the screens of the iPhone and enjoy the touch features that a sighted user would.

Users hear a description of what’s on the screen; everything from the menu items to the battery life. The gestures one uses with VoiceOver are unique to it but are fairly intuitive to learn, even for this sighted tester. VoiceOver walks you through inputting text if you desire to send a text message.

A braille keyboard is included that does not require the use of a third party physical braille keyboard. Because VoiceOver is integrated into the Apple operating system, it works with all the built-in apps that come with the iPhone.

3: AiPoly

This Apple app, whose tagline is “Vision Through Artificial Intelligence,” is designed to help the visually impaired “see.” It has several advantages over previous attempts at this challenge, including the fact that it does not require the internet or a third party to decipher the visual scene. Aipoly uses artificial intelligence and deep learning algorithms to identify objects in “real-time.” For example, the user points the phone’s rear camera at an object and hears feedback on what is being “seen” by the camera, without having to take a photo.

Of course, for many objects a visually impaired person could use touch to figure out the object, so where Aipoly comes in handy is for identifying the differences in similar-shaped objects. The app is not yet sophisticated enough to identify different objects by their labels or shape. However, it can identify colors. In fact, while using Aipoly you will learn many new color descriptions much like a set of paint sample cards. The app will continue to improve as its user base grows. Soon to come is the ability for Aipoly to understand complex visual scenes, such as objects and their spatial relationships.

4: Be My Eyes

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Be My Eyes is an app that connects blind and visually impaired with sighted volunteers from around the world via live video call. It works the following way:

Blind requests assistance

A blind person requests assistance in the Be My Eyes app. The challenge that he/she needs help with can be anything from knowing the expiry date on the milk to navigating new surroundings.

Volunteer receives video call and description

The volunteer helper receives a notification for help and a live video connection is established with the sighted volunteers who help in assisting the visually impaired individuals in carrying out their daily tasks without any hindrance. From the live video the volunteer can help the blind person by answering the question they need to be answered, they are told the relevant answer for which they have used the app.

5: VizWiz

vizwiz

VizWiz is an iPhone app that allows blind users to receive quick answers to questions about their surroundings. VizWiz combines automatic image processing, anonymous web workers, and members of the user’s social network in order to collect fast and accurate answers to their questions.

VixWiz is an amazing application that is extremely effective, simply take a picture of any object and record your question and then select whom you wish to send it to. Your choices are Web Worker, IQ Engine, email or Twitter. Web Worker is a human volunteer who will review and answer your question e.g. take a lipstick, ask about the color and its brand? In less than 30 seconds you will get an accurate answer from the Web Worker like “The lipstick is of rose red color and belongs to Medora”.

Another choice for response is the IQ Engine, a character reader. The response from the IQ Engine is to recite the product UPC code. While the IQ Engine was not accurate, we do see where it could be handy for getting serial numbers or other numerical data. Email allows you to send your question to someone you know from your contacts and Twitter will tweet your questions to your followers. VizWiz is a free app available on the App Store.

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