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Visually impaired prefer specially enhanced TV

A scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute (SERI) found that increasing the contrast of details of certain sizes made television watching more enjoyable to the visually impaired. //

The U.S. study provides information that could help develop an electronic device to help millions suffering eye diseases. People who may benefit from such a device include those suffering from macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other causes of low vision.

The research findings have been published in the current (November/December) issue of Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics (OPO).

Dr. Eli Peli, principal investigator of the study, senior scientist at SERI and a professor at Harvard Medical School, said, "Most of us take seeing the television for granted; but for the visually impaired, it is very difficult. This is a source of great frustration and discouragement since so much news and entertainment come from tuning into the 'tube'."

A low vision rehabilitation expert, Peli is also an electrical engineer and optometrist by training; he has devoted his career to creating and evaluating new technologies to help low-vision patients regain their ability to do these tasks.

He sees hundreds of patients suffering from vision impairments caused by diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy and other diseases that impair the central vision. AMD destroys the tiny central part of the retina called the macula. This makes activities such as reading, driving, and watching television extremely difficult. The goal of the current OPO study was to determine if people with impaired vision benefited from an individually tuned contrast enhancement of their TV.

Peli and his colleagues used an image-processing device developed for them by DigiVision Inc. that allows them to manipulate, in real time, the contrast of different sized details (or edges) in the video screen to their individual liking. "This
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