What do visually impaired people actually see? This question was answered by ZEISS in a VR application developed by NMY. The application raises awareness of people who are suffering from eye disorders.
Optics expert ZEISS intended to explain how people with eye diseases experience the everyday world, how it feels to have an eye disease. NMY was commissioned to develop a realistic simulation of eye disorders that can be employed at trade shows and trainings.
An everyday situation was recreated in order to bring eye disorders into the main focus. Users should deal with a normal situation whilst their vision was disturbed. Virtual reality is an immersive technology that allows users to dive deep into an enclosed world. Therefore, it is ideal for the simulation of eye disorders, and it also helps creating awareness for visually impaired people.
We created the concept for, and developed a VR app for the HTC Vive VR headset. In the application, the user has to master a game of ping-pong with reduced vision. While the app has been set up to be very playful, there is a serious underlying message: Visually impaired people struggle with so-called normal situations.
We developed a VR-based solution that is supported by the eye-tracking technology of the company SMI: the position and line of vision of the user is calculated exactly in the VR headset by tracking the movements of the user’s eyes. What advantage did we draw from this? We were able to realistically simulate a specific eye disease for the non-impaired user of the application.
At a trade show, visitors of the ZEISS booth were able to discover virtually what the real world looks like for people with eye diseases. ZEISS will continue to use the VR app as measuring device for scientific research. The results of this research will be implemented into ZEISS’ product development. The combination of eye-tracking and virtual reality technology led to NMY setting new benchmarks in the area of realistic simulations. In the future, ZEISS will literally open everybody’s eyes and make them aware of certain eye disorders.
We have implemented eye-tracking technology especially for this application, because it is able to trace the eye movements of people. This means, that the areas a human being focusses on while looking at something can be recorded. This technology tracks the gaze of the user in virtual reality. The VR headset in combination with eye-tracking technology recognizes what the user is looking at, and can adjust the images perceived by the user in real-time.
This is why a certain eye disorder seems incredibly authentic in the ZEISS app. Whether it’s black dots or blurred vision that visually impaired people experience, the non-impaired user of the app can recreate that experience for themselves. To realistically depict an eye disease in this way has only been possible via VR in combination with eye-tracking technology.