OpenVisSim, a sight-loss simulator

Modern digital simulators are able to replicate and objectively quantify some of the key everyday difficulties associated with visual impairments.

First row: virtual rooms from the simulator. Bottom row: smartphone highlighted in the first pannel, while the last 2 showcase superior and inferior visual field loss. Source

Over 100 million people worldwide live with a chronic visual impairment (VI). The most common causes are glaucoma, agerelated macular degeneration (AMD), and cataracts. Simulations are often used to help communicate the day-to-day challenges that visually impaired individuals may experience. The authors used a Head Mounted Display (HMD) with integrated eyetracking to perform gaze-contingent digital manipulations in virtual or augmented reality (VR/AR). Their software is freely available online (OpenVisSim), and provides a description of multiple different symptoms that can be simulated simultaneously and in real-time.

The current work is focused on glaucoma, because it is often misunderstood. Individuals with this condition often report particular difficulty locating objects in cluttered visual scenes, and also exhibit reduced mobility and increased risk of falls. Additionally, these difficulties tend to be most pronounced when the loss occurs in the inferior visual field, compared to when the loss of vision occurs above the midline. The experimental setup implies 28 individuals that had to perform two tasks in the simulator: object search (locate a smartphone in a house) and visual mobility (navigation). The results show that participants were slower to perform everyday visual-search (VR) and mobility (AR) tasks when experiencing simulated Visual Field Loss (VFL), and as with real patients these difficulties were exacerbated when the VFL was inferior.

Many participants reported feeling anxious when the impairment was active. This was particularly the case when participants were ascending/descending the stairs that led to the AR mobility platform. Interestingly, “climbing stairs” is also a regular source of anxiety for many people with severe vision loss.

You can read more in the original paper (this version is adapted and abridged).

Jones, P.R., Somoskeöy, T., Chow-Wing-Bom, H. and Crabb, D.P., 2020. Seeing other perspectives: evaluating the use of virtual and augmented reality to simulate visual impairments (OpenVisSim). NPJ digital medicine3(1), pp.1-9.

Preparing for the sandworms

Since the trailers for the 2020 movie adaptation of the book “Dune” (written by Frank Herbert, and published in 1965) were released, it is a good moment to refresh our memories and read the original work. Below is a creative animated summary of the plot, to get you started reading the series if you haven’t already. On the same note, if you haven’t watched the first movie which appeared in 1984, a great comparison between the old and new teasers will incite your curiosity to better understand what has changed (or not) in cinematography and storytelling.

Overcome your fear of the unknown

Recent events made our lives unpredictable. They took us out of our comfort zone and into unknown territory, adding to our previous fears by making us tread uncharted waters. We might have been in a pleasant state, without a worry in the world. We had hopes and dreams and plans that are now uncertain. It changed the way in which we live by altering various aspects of our lives – we had to socially distance ourselves, we were bombarded with alarming news and statistics, some people faced unemployment, children lost access to education, and many more worrying examples. These made our anxiety peak. Fear of the unknown is truly one to rule them all.

In the end, you become what you give your attention to. If you focus only on the negative aspects of life, you will only see those. If you constantly worry about exams, that’s all you’ll be able to think about. If you are angry about the uncertainty of future events (for example, how school or university will be reopening), you will be caught in a loop of frustration. These will make you distrust yourself, others, your countries’ institutions, and life in general. Take advantage of the power of your thoughts and make a change.

While facing difficult times, it is better to be patient. Watch as events unfold, pay attention to people around you, research, and study to understand things that scare you. If you feel courageous, you can even come up with practical solutions to improve your situation. Just be aware that sometimes bad things are good at a higher level, these are the drivers of evolution. Be open to the unknown and to change, and see where it takes you.

Conference Paper: A Critical Evaluation of Aerial Datasets for Semantic Segmentation

 2020 IEEE 16th International Conference on Intelligent Computer Communication and Processing (ICCP 2020)

Abstract: Drone perception systems use information from sensor fusion to perform tasks like object detection and tracking, visual localization and mapping, trajectory planning, and autonomous navigation. Applying these functions in real environments is a complex problem due to three-dimensional structures like trees, buildings, or bridges since the sensors (usually cameras) have limited viewpoints. We are interested in creating an application that is aimed towards inspection of forests with a focus on deforestation, with the main objectives being building a 3D semantic map of the environment and visual inspection of trees. In this paper, we evaluate three new datasets recorded at various flight altitudes, in terms of class balance, training performance on the semantic segmentation task, and the ability to transfer knowledge from one set to another. Our findings showcase the strengths of these datasets, while also pointing out their shortcomings, and offering future development ideas and raising research questions.

Paper download link: A Critical Evaluation of Aerial Datasets for Semantic Segmentation