SightPlus: the virtual reality vision aid restoring eyesight 

British electronics company GiveVision has developed a wearable aid called SightPlus, which helps people whose sight loss is beyond the reach of glasses or surgery to perceive the world more clearly. Chloe Kent takes a closer look.


ith age-related illnesses such as macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma on the rise, it’s estimated that nearly three million people in the UK will be living with a visual impairment by 2030. Alongside the loss of vision comes a loss of independence and security, as many people begin to struggle more and more with everyday tasks as their condition deteriorates. Everyday tasks like grocery shopping or reading a book can become impossible when a person can’t see the products in front of them or read the words on a page, and many people are forced to rely on rudimentary devices like a magnifying glass to see them more clearly.

Now, British electronics company GiveVision has developed a virtual reality (VR) headset called SightPlus, which has been found to significantly improve vision for people with sight loss. The device is designed to be used by people whose sight loss has deteriorated to the point where glasses or surgery are no longer able to correct it.

In a study conducted at Moorfields Eye Hospital, nearly 70% of participants reported that their visual acuity was enhanced to 0.2 logMAR. This metric is used to measure low vision, and represents a nearly normal degree of sight, with a score of 0logMAR being equivalent to 20/20 vision.

GiveVision CEO Stan Karpenko says: “To understand how it works we need to understand the patient a little bit. The ideal patient for SightPlus is someone that has lost central sight – the world appears very blurry to them. They can sort of see lights and maybe shapes and silhouettes, but they cannot really distinguish people’s faces. These patients already use a magnifying glass, because if they can increase the size of a picture of text then their peripheral vision can figure it out.”

How does the device work?

The device’s design guarantees a midstream collection, meaning samples are more likely to yield accurate results upon testing.

“It’s a female body-shaped funnel that sits comfortably against the perineum,” says Forte Medical CEO Giovanna Forte. “You start to pee. At the end of the funnel there’s two exit points – one has got a small, compressed sponge in it. The urine collection tube screws onto the side of the funnel. The first bit of urine goes through the void with the sponge in it and the sponge expands and acts like a cork. The midstream is pushed up and into the bottle.

“When the bottle’s full, there’s a kind of vacuum that’s created, so that will just stay where it is and won’t get diluted with later urine; the last urine goes through the second void. The flask is designed not to overflow.”

The device has managed to reduce false positives by 70% in clinical settings. It’s a fairly impressive statistic, which becomes even more vital considering the fact that urine has a diagnostic quality on par with blood but there are very few regulations about how it is sampled and tested.

“If you had that disparity in the quality of specimen of blood there would be a national outcry”

Forte suggests that both an aversion to urine as a waste product and a tendency to dismiss women’s health issues are to blame.

“Because urine is a waste product it has been slightly overlooked in terms of the quality of the sample that is being analysed,” she says. “Plus, UTIs are largely a women’s problem. Women have messy bodies, they put up with a lot of their periods, they put up with giving birth. Things don’t get diagnosed first time and we just take it as part and parcel of things.”

Four years ago, Forte Medical submitted freedom of information requests to every NHS Trust in the UK asking what their urine contamination rates were. The responses came back ranging from 1% to 70%.

Forte says: “If you had that disparity in the quality of specimen of blood there would be a national outcry. Because it’s urine people think the test can just be carried out again, without thinking of the cost or the fact that someone’s condition might get worse.”

UTIs are costing the NHS millions

Forte recently became her own case study for medical institutions’ mishandling of UTIs when she was diagnosed with an infection and given a broad-spectrum antibiotic. After the drugs made no difference she returned to her doctor, who prescribed a longer and stronger course of the same antibiotic. Following this, she ended up in hospital with borderline sepsis.

Forte says: “I got to the hospital and told them that I got the same antibiotic for longer and the doctor just looked at me and said, ‘You’re joking – you’re not supposed to do that'.”

The incident highlights just how poorly UTI care can be managed. In the most recently available data, 184,000 patients had an unplanned hospital admission as a result of a UTI, costing the NHS £434m. UTIs also accounted for nearly 20% of all hospital-acquired infections.

“184,000 patients had an unplanned hospital admission as a result of a UTI.”

If implemented across the NHS, it’s hoped Peezy Midstream could drastically reduce these figures.

The device has been adopted in antenatal clinics in west Hertfordshire, is in use in north Devon and is about to undergo a major trial in Birmingham. Public Health Wales started a two-part trial into Peezy’s benefits last year, and has shown cost savings and more prompt treatment for patients in general practice, leading to its introduction in surgeries across the country.

It’ll be a while before Peezy Midstream becomes the gold standard for urine sampling globally, but it’s off to a pretty strong start.

“I would urge medics and healthcare professionals to accept that this is something that needs discussion,” Forte says. “There’s no dialogue. It’s overlooked because it’s deemed to be unimportant.”