Image of Dr. Greene with EMCO Conference Attendees

Eastern Mediterranean Council of Optometry Marrakesh, Morocco 2018

On September 21 and 22, 2018, I was an invited speaker at the 2nd Annual Eastern Mediterranean Council of Optometry (EMCO) meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco. While not quite located on the eastern Mediterranean, their first meeting in Beirut, Lebanon in 2016 certainly was!  I want to express my appreciation to the EMCO Scientific committee, Dr. Hassan Awada, Dr. Yazan Gamoh, and Dr. Liana Al-Labadi for their invitation.

I met optometrists and optometry students from all over the Middle East, northern Africa, India, Nepal and Bhutan. Speakers ranged from far and wide, including the US, Canada, UK, France, Australia, Sudan, South Africa, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan. Topics ranged from myopia control (with Naidoo Kovin, CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute), scleral contact lenses, amblyopia, ortho-keratology, pediatric eyecare, and for me, of course, low vision.  Co-sponsored by the Moroccan Council of Optometry and the World Congress of Optometry (WCO), the meeting attracted several hundred attendees.

I was asked to present three COPE approved courses—the first on treating distance vision loss, a second on understanding and treating hemianopic and tunnel vision visual field loss, and lastly a bioptic prescribing and fitting workshop. The 2-hour workshop, limited to 12 attendees was filled with energetic, enthusiastic (and young!) optometrists. We discussed how to identify promising candidates, determine the appropriate prescription, establishing a prognosis, and especially the nuts and bolts of fitting the telescopes.  Attendees played the roles of both patients and doctors and took turns fitting the Ocutech bioptics on each other.  It didn’t take long for them to see how easy it is!  We also demonstrated the new Ocutech Falcon Autofocus bioptic, which was a highlight and huge success!  Since many spoke only French and Arabic, I was ably translated and assisted by Dr. Liana Al-Labadi, a 2009 graduate of the OSU School of Optometry, who now practices in Palestine.

Dr. Greene with Hamid Nafis, chairman of EMCO 2018.
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photo of person wearing orcam

Is the ORCAM really an “Artificial Vision Device”?

Referencing article: http://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2335212

by Henry A Greene, OD, FAAO

A paper titled The Impact of a Novel Artificial Vision Device (OrCam) on the Quality of Life of Patients with End-Stage Glaucoma by Michael Waisbourd, et.al. appeared in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science in June 2015, Vol. 56 (see link to paper above). New technology to aid the visually impaired is always welcome and serves also to move the field forward, however we need to be careful to describe these products in a way that honestly represents their function and the benefit they provide.

photo of person wearing orcam

Photo from Orcam.com

The ORCAM, a portable head-born text-to-audio device that can be attached to eyeglasses, is a novel and potentially very helpful device to enable the visually impaired (as well as others) to access text material such as on signs, packaging, publications and also to aid in recognize faces and provide their names to the user via a bone conduction speaker.

Accessing printed material is often the first and major complaint and functional concern of individuals who are visually impaired and the ORCAM has the potential to effectively address that need.

However, calling the ORCAM an “Artificial Vision Device” misrepresents the innovative technology that it provides as it offers no visual enhancement, solely an audio presentation of items scanned by the device. While it may read text and recognize and name your friends, family and other items of interest, it does not allow the user to actually see them. So, while the device may well be of value to the user, it does not provide vision of any kind, and hence the “Artificial Vision” nomenclature is misleading both in terms of what it does and also what a potential user would expect it to provide.

I would not presume to have the right to suggest an alternate descriptive for the Orcam, but do hope that others might.