Headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, Envision promotes advocacy and independence for people who are blind or have low vision. Every year, Envision hosts an international conference that gives professionals in the vision rehabilitation field an opportunity to share knowledge, receive mentoring and gain access to the latest developments in research, assistive technology and crossover considerations in fields such as neurology and psychology. Dr. Sarika Gopalakrishnan is a research fellow for Envision Research Institute by Envision, Inc.

Dr. Sarika Gopalakrishnan is a research fellow for Envision Research Institute by Envision, Inc.

At the 2022 Envision Conference, Dr. Gopalakrishnan presented a summary of her recent work on “Developing Virtual Reality Environments for Assessment of Functional Vision of People with Low Vision.”

In the study, her team designed a three-dimensional virtual bank environment where they could assess 10 visual parameters like distance visual acuity, near visual acuity, distance contrast, near contrast, and visual search and navigation to better understand the visual performance of people with low vision.

Based on the assessment, they developed a scoring system, which will directly help influence people’s quality of life while performing their daily living activities. Virtual reality experiments like these will help provide gaze-regaze training for those who face mobility issues and can help in visual rehabilitation in the future.

“Virtual Reality environments have enabled researchers to conduct experiments in a simulated real world, which may elicit responses from the subjects similar to those in real situations,” said Dr. Gopalakrishnan. “The VR technology can produce applications to assess people with low vision, which provides a level of realism unattainable by other techniques.

“It helps in evaluating human performance in a realistic environment and gives us an insight into how an individual perceives the real world while he/she executes a task, and it also helps pick up difficulties of which the individual might not be aware. The virtual reality research will help design more friendly public environments in the future which would be easily accessible by people with low vision or blindness.”