Augmented reality headset may help AMD patients with central vision loss
California-based manufacturer of augmented reality glasses, Ocutrx Vision Technologies, announced a new design for the company’s flagship Oculenz AR Wear glasses and its first market as patients with age-related macular degeneration and other low vision conditions.
Linda Lam, MD, who recently joined the company as Chief Scientific and Strategy Officer, spoke with Primary Care Optometry News about the design and its impact on patients and families affected by AMD.
The redesigned Oculenz AR glasses are low profile and more lightweight, at 0.44 pounds, than the company’s original Hololens 2, at 1.25 pounds, according to a company press release.
Oculenz features floating lenses that provide a bright, unobstructed field of view complementing the wide micro-display projection capacities ideal for medical applications and more.
PCON: Tell us about Ocutrx and what attracted you to the company.
Lam: We create devices and the software to help patients who would otherwise be blind.
My background is in retina; I also have a deep interest in vision rehabilitation and helping those who couldn’t otherwise see.
I’m on the Braille Institute board of directors and the American Academy of Ophthalmology board for rehabilitation. Throughout my career I have always wanted to create a treatment or device for those who couldn’t see with current treatment methods.
Oculenz enables patients who would otherwise be blind centrally to accomplish activities of daily living.
Retinal surgeons cannot help patients with the central part of their vision – to read, see faces, watch movies, etc. With our technology, we can potentially help 80 million people who would otherwise be blind.
PCON: Please describe how the device works.
Lam: It is an augmented reality headset with a heads-up display, weighing less than 200 grams, with a wide field of view of 110°.
It looks like large eyeglasses, essentially, and features specific electronic equipment with customized algorithms for each eye. When the patient puts it on in the morning, our system can locate where their scotoma is in each eye, and we can map out the scotoma on a daily basis or however often the clinician wants it mapped out. It measures where their healthy retina is and projects the image that they cannot see within the scotoma into the adjacent retina that they can see. Through neuroadaptation, the brain does not see a blind spot where the scotoma was, but a complete image, while maintaining peripheral vision.
Other devices only magnify the scotoma; they don’t allow the patient to see peripherally. They still can’t see what’s in the blind spot.
Our platform is different than others, using a totally different technology. It’s a game changer, allowing patients to see centrally and peripherally.
PCON: What is the timeline for product releases, and can you comment on insurance coverage?
Lam: They have been in development for a few years. Several prototypes have been tested in clinical trials, and patients are able to see centrally. We are in premanufacturing mode currently. The device is expected to be released mid-year 2020.
Monitoring devices for AMD are covered by Medicare. When the patient puts on Oculenz, it records where the blind spot is every day and sends that information to the doctor’s office.
Patients with low vision have a difficult time discerning that they have lost more vision.
Oculenz allows monitoring of the retinal condition and lets doctors know if the field loss is worsening. Because of the monitoring aspect, there is a high likelihood that the device will be covered either partly or mostly by insurance.
PCON: What is your strategy/vision on the executive team?
Lam: It is important for me to improve both the headset and the software of the device; one of the goals at Ocutrx is to have continuous quality improvement.
It will be a game changer in terms of vision care. There is no other therapy or platform to assist those with central vision loss. In addition to AMD, there are other eye conditions that we will be able to address, but we would first need to complete clinical trials to evaluate these measures.
Oculenz can help many patients with potentially blinding disorders outside of AMD, including inherited retinal diseases like retinitis pigmentosa and even diabetic retinopathy, but we’d want to validate these measures before pushing it out to the market as potential therapy for another disease.
Additionally, there are other avenues for our device to have a big footprint, like surgery. We have been in talks with surgical companies, as augmented reality is necessary to help surgeons perform more accurate and efficient surgery. For example, a cardiac angiogram would overlie the heart of a patient in direct configuration and magnification instead of the surgeon having to look up at the image on the monitor and trying to mentally overlay it. We will physically overlay the heart with the image on the heads-up display, so the surgeons know the right vessel to operate on. – interviewed by Abigail Sutton
Disclosure: Lam is an advisor to Ocutrx.