ASTRI and InnoHK CEVR’s First Ever Collaboration: Utilizing AR、R&D Technologies to Help Patients with Eye Conditions See Clearly Again Bringing Hope to Vision Loss and Lazy Eye Patients, with a Mission to “Heal”

[Hong Kong, 13 July 2022] The Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) is collaborating with the Centre for Eye and Vision Research (CEVR) to develop at least two projects that will treat patients of different ages suffering from lazy eye and other eye conditions. CEVR was established under the Innovation and Technology Commission’s platform for research and innovation, InnoHK.

Amblyopia is a common visual impairment that reduces one’s vision and ability to see in 3D. To treat this condition the brain must be retrained to use information coming from both eyes. This is especially challenging to achieve in adult patients because neuroplasticity decreases as we get older and the brain fully matures as we get older and the brain fully matures. The breakthrough of this collaboration is the development of novel treatment methods that will incorporate ASTRI’s AR technologies and CEVR’s research on recovering neuroplasticity in the visual cortex. The ultimate goal is to “heal” patients’ eyes and give them hope that they may see clearly again.

ASTRI’s CEO Dr. Denis Yip said: “Digital healthcare is one of ASTRI’s core areas for research. Through InnoHK’s ‘Health@InnoHK’ project, we will join hands with CEVR to provide treatment to many patients suffering from eye conditions and correct their vision, making this is a tremendously meaningful collaboration. I look forward to the ASTRI team’s cooperation with different units to contribute more value to Hong Kong’s research and medical fields.

Vision loss or visual impairment can be defined as reduced vision that cannot be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, surgery or medical treatment. Vision loss can broadly be classified into central loss and peripheral loss. Patients may have one or both types of loss.

Patients with central loss typically have difficulty recognizing faces, reading and seeing fine details. Patients with peripheral loss typically have difficulty navigating crowded environments and seeing obstacles on the floor and sides. Everyone responds differently to vision loss, and to the impact that it has on their life.

What causes vision loss?

According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment.  In at least 1 billion – or almost half – of these cases, vision impairment could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed.

The main causes of vision loss in people are:

  • Uncorrected refractive error is the largest cause of vision loss, afflicting over 671 million people worldwide. These people can recover their vision with appropriate spectacles, contact lenses, or refractive surgery.
  • Dry eye disease is a global problem, afflicting at least 344 million people, and is one of the most frequent causes of patient visits to eye care practitioners.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) causes central vision loss is the third-largest cause of visual impairment. Over 8 million people have vision loss due to AMD.
  • Glaucoma causes peripheral vision loss and is the fourth-largest cause of visual impairment. Almost 8 million people have vision loss due to glaucoma.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is a growing cause of vision loss. Over 4 million people have vision loss due to Diabetic retinopathy.

For every person that experiences vision impairment and blindness from the above causes, there are many more living with the early-stages of AMD/ glaucoma / diabetic retinopathy who need comprehensive and integrated people-centred eye care services to prevent serious vision loss.

ASTRI and CEVR will jointly promote the development of a navigation system for people with vision loss in Hong Kong

People with impaired vision encounter various obstacles in many daily activities. Although people with visual impairment can be aided by walking canes, guide dogs, and mobility training, moving safely through different environments such as community centres, shopping malls and health care facilities remains a major challenge that significantly impairs social interactions, wellness and quality of life.

The Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Institute (ASTRI) and the Centre for Eye and Vision Research (CEVR) join hands together to develop a comprehensive navigation system for people with impaired vision, it will remove mobility barriers for people with impaired vision and dramatically enhance their wellbeing.

ASTRI has been committed to promoting technological R&D in Hong Kong and partnering with different institutions and companies in developing innovative technologies. With the collaboration between ASTRI and CEVR, ASTRI’s IT expertise can directly apply the results of applied research from CEVR’s investigators and translate navigation technology and solutions to the digital health industry helping to improve the quality of life for the people with visual impairment in Hong Kong.

CEVR’s CEO and Scientific Director Professor Ben Thompson expressed: “Globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment. In almost half of these cases, vision impairment could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed. CEVR gathers top researchers from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the University of Waterloo in Canada to collaborate synergistically, expand research, and make advancements in eye health and treatment. In working with ASTRI, we hope to make use of AR technologies to increase the development of lazy eye patients’ 3D vision abilities and ultimately improve patients’ overall eye health.

ASTRI and the Centre for Eye and Vision Research (CEVR) are cooperating in research and development that can help patients with different ages and degrees of amblyopia and other eye diseases. There will be multiple patents developed. With the help of technology, the goal of “treatment” is to bring hope to patients.

ASTRI uses Augmented Reality (AR) technology in conjunction with CEVR to study neuroplasticity in the visual area of the brain, with the goal of “treatment”.

ASTRI Chief Executive Dr. Denis Yip(Left)and CEVR Chief Executive and Research Director Prof. Ben Thompson(Right) introduced the cooperation plan between the two parties.