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MIT develops camera for the blind
Date:1/13/2009

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Elizabeth Goldring smiles as she shows a visitor photos she's taken and can see with her blind eye.

The demonstration comes more than 20 years after Goldring, a senior fellow at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies, and colleagues began work on a "seeing machine" that can allow some people who are blind or visually challenged to access the Internet, view the face of a friend and much more.

The team has moved from Goldring's inspiration, a large diagnostic device costing some $100,000, to a $4,000 desktop version, to the current seeing machine, which is portable and inexpensive. "We can make one for under $500," Goldring said.

Although the device can be connected to any visual source, such as a video camera or desktop computer, Goldring especially enjoys using it with a photo camera. "When someone has a diminished sense, the inability to express yourself with that sense can be frustrating," she said. By taking photos, "I feel I'm able to express myself visually with my blind eye, and there's value in that, I think."

Further, "it's light enough that I really want to take it with me when I go for a walk." (Goldring, who is visually challenged, has enough sight in one eye to permit mobility.)

Goldring's idea for the seeing machine began with a visit to her optometrist. At the time, she was completely blind.

To determine if she had any healthy retina left, technicians peered into her eyes with a scanning laser opthalmoscope, or SLO. With the machine they projected a simple image directly onto the retina of one eye, past the hemorrhages within the eye that contributed to her blindness.

She was indeed able to see the test image. So she asked if they could write the word "sun." "And I was amazed that I was able to read a word!" Goldring said.

She went on to use the device for other visual experiences. For example, video of her doctor was transmitted through the SLO, and for th
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Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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