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Research project creates app to help visually impaired people

Posted on 28/05/2012

Robin Walker, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology, is currently leading a project to create and evaluate a new iPad app called the ‘MDReader’. The MDReader app enables text to be enlarged and scrolled and it is hoped will be useful for people with macular disease, the most common cause of visual impairment in the developed world.

The app works by allowing text, such as that of an eBook, to be displayed in large font on the iPad (and on a large screen digital TV) while scrolling across the screen. The speed of the text can be changed to suit the user using a simple trackpad. This could be of benefit to people who use eccentric viewing and steady eye techniques, where a person locates their best part of peripheral vision and moves text through it, keeping the eye steady while moving the text – a technique which is difficult to master. The MDReader is designed to reduce the natural tendency to make eye movements, which could make eccentric viewing and steady eye techniques easier to master.

Volunteers from the Macular Disease Society, who have macular disease and some experience of eccentric viewing, are helping in the initial evaluation of the app. Their feedback will be used to make further enhancements before undertaking a more formal evaluation of reading performance using the app. It is hoped that the app will be made available to members of the MD Society in the future.

This research project is a truly collaborative venture at the College. It was funded by the Gateway fund, managed by Research & Enterprise and has the backing of one of our Honorary Fellows - Yazan Mufti. The app was developed by Huboldt Solutions an innovations company based on campus in the Enterprise Centre. The next stage of the project is to obtain measures of usability and reading performance and this will be carried out initially by two of our UG (Psychology) students, providing them with research internships.


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