Scientists at Royal Holloway wanted to find a way to help people with sight loss to read. Discover how they partnered up with Humboldt Solutions to bring the ability to read to thousands with vision impairment.
Professor Robin Walker was interested in developing novel solutions to help people with macular degeneration to read. Macular degeneration is a common eye condition that affects the central part of the retina resulting in a loss of the ability to see fine detail. This affects only central vision, the side or peripheral vision remains normal. It is most common in the elderly, but can affect anyone from any range due to other factors like genetics.
Professor Walker reached out to Humboldt Solutions about an idea he had - a tablet app which allowed text from eBooks to scroll as a single horizontal line like a news ticker. This can support reading using the persons' remaining peripheral vision.
Watch the video below to get a better understanding of how the app works:
Humboldt Solutions handed over a prototype application which Professor Walker could demo to actual patients with macular degeneration. The prototype would involve loading eBooks into the app and having the words scroll across the screen like a ticker-tape with a track pad to enable scrolling speed to be controlled.
Working with the patients, Professor Walker could collaborate with Humboldt to quickly iterate over prototypes and implement features, suggestions, and general feedback with each version of the app. This included adding the ability for the users to enlarge the text and to present it with the optimal text and background colours as well as connecting the iPad to a TV screen.
Humboldt delivered the MDevReader app on iOS and Android which allowed patients with macular degeneration to finally read books with ease. With books freely available on the internet thanks to Project Gutenburg, it helped enable patients to feel a sense of empowerment they lost when their vision waned. The app was highlighted by Universities UK as one of 20 top examples of innovative university research.