Navigation 2020: The Future of Visual Correction
BY LEO SEMES, OD, FAAO
Recently, I was intrigued by a National Public Radio (NPR) essay update on Google’s self-driving car, which was debuted in 2009 (Shahani, 2014). Briefly, there was the prediction that by 2050, there would be 20 million such cars on U.S. roads.
Currently, other manufacturers have demonstration projects of such vehicles (Various articles on www.theguardian.com; Full list available at www.clspectrum.com/references.). The goal is to produce a marketable version by 2020. But you are probably wondering what that has to do with vision, visual correction, and eye care?
We all are aware of campaigns and legislation against texting and driving due to visual distractions. So, having a vehicle that gets you from point A to point B, avoids pedestrians and other vehicles, and parks itself using radar, lasers, and spacial recognition would appear to be a “… giant leap for mankind …” OK, so I am remembering July 20, 1969. But who could have imagined 35 years ago the widespread use of progressive addition bifocal lenses?
Refractive Correction Recommendations for Seniors
At the 2013 American Academy of Optometry meeting, the topic of the Glenn A. Fry Memorial Lecture was the relationship among blurred vision, spectacle correction, and falls in older adults (Elliot, 2014). Aside from the economic and social costs of falls, Elliott presented data that related to the causes of these common occurrences (not accidents, as he describes them).
Advice to clinicians included limiting refractive correction changes to no greater than ±0.75D of sphere or cylinder for starters. Additional suggestions are to pay attention to spectacle magnification and lens design and to consider single-vision lens recommendations for outdoor use. Alternatively, reduce the add for situations in which concentrated near work is not anticipated.
These strategies aim to minimize peripheral blur to allow better vision and perception. So, now there are some evidence-based treatment recommendations. But, would there be other means to minimize distractions?
Another recent science item was the augmentation of visual perception by auditory cues. Researchers in Switzerland have demonstrated nonretinal influences at the level of early visual cortex in human subjects (Vetter, 2014). This result may represent possibilities to enhance seeing among the visually impaired.
Another aspect of improving visualization is the use of ultrasound technology embedded in glasses. Think Google Glass for the sighted and the just-mentioned device for the visually impaired. It is under development in Mexico and uses artificial intelligence to recognize locations, read signs, and identify objects such as various banknote denominations and color of clothing (Borghino, 2014).
One additional feature is that a Global Positioning System can provide audible directions. The expectation is that a commercial prototype will be available as early as this month. Both this device and Google Glass are expected to cost between $1,000 and $1,500.
A Look to the Future
So, the future looks bright. Clinicians now have guidance for prescribing spectacle correction to minimize falls among the most vulnerable, the poorly or partially sighted will have augmented vision that will allow driving, and all of us will have access to accident-avoidance vehicles. CLS
For references, please visit www.clspectrum.com/references and click on document #225.
Dr. Semes is a professor of optometry at the UAB School of Optometry. He is a consultant or advisor to Alcon, Allergan, B+L, Sucampo, and Zeiss and is a stock shareholder in HPO and Arctic DX.