K. Krösl (2021)

Simulating Cataracts in Virtual Reality

communication medium

Digital Anatomy - Applications of Virtual, Mixed and Augmented Reality


Vision impairments, such as cataracts, affect the visual perception of numerous people worldwide, but are hardly ever considered in architectural or lighting design, due to a lack of suitable tools. In this chapter, we address this issue by presenting a method to simulate vision impairments, in particular cataracts, graphically in virtual reality (VR), for people with normal sight. Such simulations can help train medical personnel, allow relatives of people with vision impairments to better understand the challenges they face in their everyday lives and also help architects and lighting designers to test their designs for accessibility. There have been different approaches and devices used for such simulations in the past. The boom of VR and augmented reality (AR) devices, following the release of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets, has provided new opportunities to create more immersive and more realistic simulations than ever before. However, the development of a vision impairment simulation is dependent on multiple factors: the designated application area, the impacts of the used hardware on a user’s vision, and of course the impact of the respective vision impairment on different aspects of the human visual system. We will discuss these factors in this chapter and also introduce some basic knowledge on human vision and how to measure it. Then we will illustrate how to simulate vision impairments in VR on the example of cataracts and explain how the presented methodology can be used to calibrate simulated symptoms to the same level of severity for different users. This methodology allows for the first time to conduct quantitative user studies to investigate the impact of certain vision impairments on perception and gain insight that can inform the design process of architects and lighting designers in the future.

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