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Television viewing for visually impaired persons enhanced by technology.

Researchers at the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, have developed software designed to enhance the contrast of images of people and objects on a television screen in order to improve television viewing for individuals with low vision. The contrast-enhancement technology, developed by Eli Peli, professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and senior scientist and Moakley Scholar in Aging Eye Research at Schepens, is the latest of several image-enhancing innovations his research team has created to improve television watching for people who are visually impaired, and the first developed for digital televisions. Dr. Peli explained:
 Our approach was to implement an image-processing algorithm to the
 receiving television's decoder. The algorithm ma[de] it possible to
 increase the contrast of specific size details.

The study by Dr. Peli and colleagues, entitled "Measuring perceived video quality of MPEG enhancement by people with impaired vision," published online in November 2007 and in print in December 2007 in the Journal of the Optical Society of America, examined 24 individuals with visual impairments (the majority of whom had macular degeneration) and six sighted individuals and found that the subjects with visual impairments preferred watching television with contrast enhancement. Working within the "decoder" that makes digital television images possible, Dr. Peli and colleagues--including the study's lead author Matthew Fullerton, a student of electronic engineering currently working on a Master's degree in Dr. Peli's lab--were able to make a simple change that could give every digital TV the potential to enhance contrast to a degree that would benefit visually impaired viewers. Until now, viewers with visual impairments had the options of using optical devices, sitting closer to the television, purchasing enlarged screens or monitors, or listening to audio description. Dr. Peli and colleagues summed up these options, "While useful, these aids are limited and may interfere with the TV experience."

In testing the technology, the team of researchers presented eight digital videos to 24 subjects with vision impairment and 6 with no impairment. Each participant was given a remote control, which allowed him or her to increase or decrease the contrast of the image. Patients manipulated over-enhanced and blurry images for the greatest clarity. The research team found that even subjects with typical vision selected some enhancement and that the amount of enhancement selected by those with vision loss varied depended on the level of contrast sensitivity, which demonstrated that the technology was both usable and useful to the subjects, even those without vision loss.

Dr. Peli is now working with Analog Devices, a manufacturer of electronic devices, to create a prototype chip that could be included in all future generations of digital television. The prototype is expected to be available in April 2008. For more information, contact: Eli Peli, senior scientist and Moakley Scholar in Aging Eye Research, Schepens Eye Research Institute, 20 Staniford Street, Boston, MA 02114; web site: < faculty/peli/index.html>. [Information from this piece was taken from "Technique Enhances Digital Television Viewing For Visually-Impaired," published online January 28, 2008, by; and "TV for the Visually Impaired: Using a New Algorithm, Researchers Are Trying to Enhance Picture Quality So That Those With Macular Degeneration Can Enjoy TV," by Brittany Sauser, published online January 28, 2008, by]
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Title Annotation:Current research
Publication:Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2008
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