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Online Eye Exams Business Receives Seed Funding PDF
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Tuesday, 04 March 2014

OpternativeU.S. Chicago-based company Opternative hopes to make eye care more accessible, convenient and inexpensive. The company claims that with their technology a complete eye exam would be available to patients who can access a computer or tablet that is connected to the Internet. After the 5- to 10-minute exam, patients would receive a prescription signed by an eye care practitioners for contact lenses or glasses. The exam would be less expensive than traditional eye exams.

The company has recently received US $1 million in seed round funding. According to co-founder of Opternative Steven Lee, OD : "I knew I needed to make the eye exam experience better. My years working as an optometrist led me to create Opternative. People who use Opternative will receive a prescription that is accurate and convenient. They can use it to buy glasses or contact lenses either online or from a local eye wear provider."

EyeMusic Sensory Substitution Device Enables the Blind to “See” Colors and Shapes PDF
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Monday, 10 February 2014

EyeMusic DeviceUsing auditory or tactile stimulation, Sensory Substitution Devices (SSDs) provide representations of visual information and can help the blind "see" colors and shapes. SSDs scan images and transform the information into audio or touch signals that users are trained to understand, enabling them to recognize the image without seeing it.

Currently SSDs are not widely used within the blind community because they can be cumbersome and unpleasant to use. However, a team of researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed the EyeMusic, a novel SSD that transmits shape and color information through a composition of pleasant musical tones, or "soundscapes." A new study published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience reports that using the EyeMusic SSD, both blind and blindfolded sighted participants were able to correctly identify a variety of basic shapes and colors after as little as 2-3 hours of training.

The EyeMusic, developed by senior investigator Prof. Amir Amedi, PhD, and his team at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) and the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada at the Hebrew University, scans an image and uses musical pitch to represent the location of pixels. The higher the pixel on a vertical plane, the higher the pitch of the musical note associated with it. Timing is used to indicate horizontal pixel location. Notes played closer to the opening cue represent the left side of the image, while notes played later in the sequence represent the right side. Additionally, color information is conveyed by the use of different musical instruments to create the sounds: white (vocals), blue (trumpet), red (reggae organ), green (synthesized reed), yellow (violin); black is represented by silence.

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Bionic Contact Lens For The Blind Developed PDF
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Wednesday, 05 February 2014

Bionic Contact Lens PrototypeScientists from Bar-Ilan University in Israel have developed a bionic contact lens prototype to help the blind see. Fitted and worn like a regular contact lens, this new invention is manufactured with electrodes, which get signals from a camera – either held in the hand or worn on one's glasses.

When a user looks or points the camera to an object –– a door, a person, a shop, letters on paper -- the camera translates the image to a type of electronic Braille, and the contact lens "excites" the retina with tactile sensations. "It's like reading Braille, not with your fingertips but with your eyes," says Prof. Zeev Zalevsky. "We can encode an image with many more points than the Braille system and use these to stimulate the surface of the cornea."

Unlike Braille, which relies on positioning of six dots to convey information to a reader, Zalevsky's invention can actually transmit images in high detail to those who are blind. The sensors in the cornea of the eye, he points out, are 600 times more sensitive to tactile stimulation than the fingertips. In fact, the corneas are the most sensitive areas in the human body to this kind of stimulation. This new technology, yet to be tested on human eyes, could open doors for those who cannot see.

"Our solution can help blind people read letters, or help you orient yourself in three dimensions. This means you could cross the road without getting run over by a car, from a functional point of view," Zalevsky says. There are existing companies, such as Second Sight, that promise to create an artificial retina. But there are major problems with this approach, says Zalevsky. For one, the user can see only about 16 pixels. Compared to mega pixels of vision in a normal eye, current solutions don't really offer more than a small beacon in the fog. The Israeli device promises tens of thousands of pixels. Also, current solutions do not work for people born blind. Since the visual cortex was never fully developed, the artificial retina has nothing to work with. On top of that, surgery to attach the system to the eyes is invasive, as electrodes must be connected to the nerves of the eye, and the connection needs to be renewed after a few years.

Zalevsky's tool, developed with researchers Prof. Michael Belkin and Yevgeny Beiderman from Israel, aims to solve these challenges, and do more –– like provide for night vision: when an infrared camera is connected to the transponder that delivers information to the contact lens, wearers could see in the dark.

To date, the bionic lens has been tested successfully on animals, who were able to see their way through obstacles in the dark. The scientists expect a first working bionic contact lens for humans to be ready within two years.

Google Testing Smart Diabetes Contact Lens PDF
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Monday, 20 January 2014

Google Smart Contact LensGoogle is testing a smart contact lens that is built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material. Google is testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second. The company is also investigating the potential for this to serve as an early warning for the wearer, and as a consequence they are exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds. The developers stated: "It is still early days for this technology, but we've completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype. We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease."

Google is already in discussions with the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), but according to the project members there is still a lot more work to do to turn the technology into a system that people can use. Google's plan is to look for partners who are experts in bringing products like this to market. These partners will use their technology for a smart contact lens and develop apps that would make the measurements available to the wearer and their doctor.

Engineers involved in the smart contact lens project said: "We've always said that we'd seek out projects that seem a bit speculative or strange, and at a time when the International Diabetes Federation is declaring that the world is "losing the battle" against diabetes, we thought this project was worth a shot."

Reflection in Pupil of Human Eye Could Reveal Photographer PDF
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Monday, 06 January 2014

Eye ReflectionNew research led by a psychologist at the University of York is using advances in the level of detail available in digital photography to harness this human ability for use in forensics. As the most commonly photographed objects are faces, there is potential in mining detailed facial images for hidden information.

Until now, photographers might reasonably have assumed that their own face was absent from the image. But the research, led by Dr Rob Jenkins, of the Department of Psychology at the University of York and published in PLOS ONE, overturns this assumption. By zooming in on high-resolution passport-style photographs, Dr Jenkins and co-researcher, Christie Kerr, of the School of Psychology, University of Glasgow were able to recover the faces of bystanders from reflections in the eyes of photographic subjects. The recovered bystander images could be identified accurately by observers, despite their low resolution.

To establish whether these bystanders could be identified from the reflection images, the researchers presented them as stimuli in a face-matching task. Observers who were unfamiliar with the bystanders’ faces performed at 71 per cent accuracy while participants who were familiar with the faces performed at 84 per cent accuracy. In a test of spontaneous recognition, observers could reliably name a familiar face from an eye reflection image.

Dr Jenkins says: "The pupil of the eye is like a black mirror. To enhance the image, you have to zoom in and adjust the contrast. A face image that is recovered from a reflection in the subject’s eye is about 30,000 times smaller than the subject’s face. Our findings thus highlight the remarkable robustness of human face recognition, as well as the untapped potential of high-resolution photography."

The researchers say that in crimes in which the victims are photographed, such as hostage taking or child sex abuse, reflections in the eyes of the photographic subject could help to identify perpetrators. Images of people retrieved from cameras seized as evidence during criminal investigations may be used to piece together networks of associates or to link individuals to particular locations.

Google Exploring Ways to Put "Glass" in Optical Stores PDF
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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Google GlassAccording to The Wall Street Journal, Google is exploring ideas with at least one eyewear company to put its smartglasses Google Glass in optical retail shops in US and create alternative designs. Moreover, VSP Global, the vision benefits provider that also owns Marchon and has operations in Australia, is talking with Google about making more fashionable frames for the device, developing special prescription lenses to use with Glass and training optometrists to fit the device for customers, VSP Chief Executive Rob Lynch said. The discussions are in early stages, and so far, the companies have no formal agreement. But VSP, which provides a vision plan for Google's employees, would be a useful channel partner for taking Google Glass to the market. The company has a network of 30,000 eye doctors, and 60 million people are enrolled in VSP's workplace and individual vision plans.

Earlier this month, New York-based company Rochester Optical, announced it will release a special prescription lens add-on for the device in early 2014.

Google has continued to evolve the US$1,500 device. These range from allowing users to send friend requests to three of their close acquaintances, and listen to music. The new features also allow users to look for songs, review playlists, and hear music files in good quality sound with the device on their head. Google recently released an updated version of its SDK which allows software developers to build apps for the device.

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