VR headsets provide low-vision users with the ability to read, watch TV, and perform daily tasks with ease.
How Does a VR Headset Work?
For people around the world who have low vision, virtual reality offers a myriad of possibilities for entertainment and socialization. By using a VR headset, a person with significant vision loss can resume old hobbies or get involved in new activities.
How VR Headsets Address Impaired Vision
VR headsets are more than entertainment devices. They also make it possible for people with low vision to enjoy more independence and mobility. The best VR headsets can effectively assist vision-impaired people in their day-to-day activities.
When a person with vision loss uses a VR headset, they make use of optical character recognition to read text out loud and a digital magnifier to enlarge texts. Whether you’re reading a book, newspaper, or menu, you can more easily see the words in front of you.
Different VR headsets offer different features. For example, a VR headset may also be capable of changing the thermostat settings in your home or adjusting the settings on your coffee maker.
Carefully review the features of any VR headset before you purchase. The headset may be primarily designed for reaching hard-to-decipher text, or it may be designed to make it easier to watch TV.
What to Consider in a VR Headset
When deciding on a VR headset, it helps to first understand how the equipment works. The headset, when used for low vision, uses virtual reality and augmented reality to enhance the remaining sight of the user. This occurs by simulating vision.
According to Digital Trends, VR headsets can be very helpful for people who have age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), a condition that leads to blurred vision in the center of the visual field. This distortion can make it difficult to drive, read, see faces, or perform certain activities, such as gardening.
To help with this vision issue, a camera on the device processes incoming images and then projects an augmented feed into the working section of the retina. This allows the patient to feel like they’re viewing something with their eyes. The idea is to make the experience feel natural.
If you have low vision, you need to find a headset that has the following basic features and elements:
- Frames that are processed at a high number per second, as this enhances the smoothness of the image
- Low latency, so the wearer won’t feel nauseous while wearing the headset
- Regular and consistent processing, so the user is not distracted by any difference in image quality
Key Features of Quality Headsets
While VR headsets do not cure vision loss, they do allow you to recover some level of sight while using the headset, so you can resume certain hobbies like reading once again. When shopping for a good VR headset, pay close attention to these features:
The camera for the headset is used to record images. In some cases, a smartphone camera is used with the headset.
This allows the user to zoom in on items or images, so they can see more details. This feature should be a given if you need the headset to help with low vision.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
This feature enables written texts to be read aloud. This is another key feature if you are using the headset for vision issues.
This key feature is important for imaging. The higher the number, the better.
Pixels Per Degree (PPD)
This element supports image quality, so PPD relates to pixel density. The higher the number, the better. This brings out the details of an image, thereby giving a more realistic display.
Field of View (FOV)
The wider the FOV, the better. Therefore, an FOV between 100 to 110 degrees for each eye is best. The FOV is represented as monocular (one eye) or binocular (two eyes) in terms of imaging.
This rate references how fast the headset is displaying images in frames per second (FPS). If the refresh rate is faster, you’ll see smoother images. A too-slow rate will cause added latency between frames, which will result in choppiness. The viewer may even experience motion sickness if it’s too slow.
A headset should have a refresh rate between 120 and 144 FPS.
The display on the divide should be an LCD screen. LED lighting will provide even elimination, and therefore a better quality picture.
Top VR Headsets
Makers of VR headsets are working toward making the devices more slimline and light. We’ll likely see many improvements in these headsets in the coming years.
The following brands offer some of the best VR headsets for impaired vision:
SightPlus VR Headset Low Vision Aid
SightPlus offers a hands-free headset that allows users to rediscover hobbies and even begin new ones. It is recommended for people with various optical conditions, including optic neuritis, diabetic retinopathy, ocular albinism, and Stargardt disease.
With this VR headset, you can see faces clearly, read, and pursue activities that weren’t previously possible. According to VentureBeat, the price for the digital vision aid is $3,612, which you can break down into $66 monthly payments, per their subscription plan.
VisionBuddy helps wearers who have vision loss to watch TV. Patients who have glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, or age-related macular degeneration can use the vision headset to watch their favorite TV shows. They can also adjust the headset’s zoom feature to suit their viewing preferences.
However, you don’t have to confine the headset to only watching TV. You can also use it to work and move around the house, allowing for more independence and mobility.
The headset comes with a digital magnifier and OCR, which reads texts out loud.
Vision Buddy costs around $3,000. You can buy the device for a risk-free trial period of seven days and a $500 down payment security deposit.
IrisVision offers its award-winning FDA-class-1 low vision devices for people with macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, cataracts, and optic atrophy.
It features a FOV of 70 percent and wireless charging technology.
You can try the device over a 30-day free trial period.
IrisVision Uses VR to Help People With Fading Eyesight to See Again. (August 2018). Digital Trends.
What Is Stargardt Disease? (September 2021). National Eye Institute.
GiveVision and Sony Promise Compact Glasses for Visually Impaired Users. (March 2020). VentureBeat.
What Is Glaucoma? (April 2022). National Eye Institute.
What Is AMD? (June 2021). National Eye Institute.
What Is Retinitis Pigmentosa? (March 2020). National Eye Institute.
Use of Augmented Reality Technology for Improving Visual Acuity of Individuals With Low Vision. (June 2020). Indian Journal of Ophthalmology.
Low Vision Aids Using Virtual Reality (VR) Headsets and Mobile Application; Preliminary Report. (July 2019). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.
The Accessibility of Commercial Off-The-Shelf Virtual Reality for Low Vision Users: A Macular Degeneration Case Study. (March 2020). Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
Last Updated March 15, 2023
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