Here is the 2nd edition of an interview series with individuals who actually tried using the RETISSA device.
– Can you introduce yourself?
I am a teacher at a school for the blind. In a few more years, I will say goodbye to my 40s.
In my first year in middle school, I noticed that I had Stevens-Johnson syndrome. The skin on my entire body became inflamed and the corneas of my eyes also became inflamed. While the symptoms in my body improved, the after-effect of corneal opacity remained in my eyes. Vision in both of my eyes is poor; my left and my right are both 20/2000. The appearance of things from my right or left eye looks different, so it is quite difficult to look at something with both eyes. I currently use my right eye for daily tasks.
I’ve undergone corneal transplant surgery for my right and left eyes twice. I’ve also had about 4 or 5 additional surgeries over the last 2-3 years. With each surgery, my vision temporarily improves, and usually with a corneal transplant you can maintain transparency, however, as the telltale symptoms of this disease, transparency does not sustain for very long. In a sense, I have not seen something clearly since before I was sick.
– Can you describe your vision?
Both of my eyes look sort of foggy, but the fogginess in my right eye is more uniform. I suppose it’s sort of like looking through the shower door glass after it’s fogged up. In my left eye, there is heterogeneity in clearness. I can see more than my right eye in some places but the rest of it is warped.
– Normally how do you go through a regular day? Do you use some sort of equipment to help you see?
I wear glasses, but in truth, they are not prescription and are just Date glasses for style. Even if there was some correction in the lenses, it doesn’t make much of a difference. I only wear them so my eyes are protected. Also, I often see things in double (diplopia), so I wear a lens over my left eye to block my vision.
To read, I often use a video magnifier, a magnifying glass (loupe), and a tablet. The video magnifier is a desktop type. I have them at home and at work. Currently, I don’t have a portable video magnifier. At my work, I read and write a lot, and it seems difficult to use it there. Instead, I often use an app on my smartphone. Even though it’s limited in some ways in performance and functionality, I can use it and I don’t have to port around both my smartphone and a portable reader.
I use a magnifying glass with 7x magnification to look at price tags when I shop. Most of the time I do not need to use two to further magnify something. If it’s something I can take home with me, I will look at it with my video magnifier at home, or take a picture of it with the camera on my smartphone.
– What do you do to write?
When I have some paper in front of me, I use my desktop video magnifier. That’s how I write most of the time. If I need to write while I’m out, I use a signature guide (a pocket-sized black rectangle with a slot cut in the center that makes it easier to see where to write). However, if there is something important I need to fill out, I will take it back with me so that I can fill it in using my video magnifier. Lately, I do not need to write anything for my bank account as I can do it all online.
– Do you find anything to be inconvenient?
It’s difficult to see on my left side. As for my right eye, I’ve lost vision in the upper area to the side of my nose…When I’m walking sometimes I almost run into trees on the side of the road or someone that might appear suddenly. As a result, I wear glasses just for protection.
– How is eating?
Nothing, in particular, is inconvenient, however, I regret that I can’t see the colorful display of my wife’s cooking. When I dine with family or friends, they help me by reading the menu and explaining the dishes. Other times, I use a smartphone to snap a picture of the menu, enlarge it and read it.
Other than that, that’s right…when I eat sashimi, I can’t tell where the wasabi is, so I will take a picture to confirm it. It can be difficult to understand exactly where it is if somebody tries to explain it to me, so I like to check it myself.
– What was your impression of using the RETISSA device?
I used the RETISSA quite a while ago when it was in its initial development. At the time I had quite high expectations for what now seems about one step away when before it was 10 steps away (laugh). In the most recent version, the tint of the colors has gotten much clearer.
Due to the fogginess in my eyes, all of the colors look dull. When I undergo surgery, for a while I can see the color black as it should look, like black. When I use the RETISSA, that’s the kind of black I see. Other primary colors like red and blue also look vivid.
– Just like you mentioned you could clearly see the green of the trees.
Yes, like that. There are times when I cannot clearly see a picture and enjoy it, but with the RETISSA, I might be able to see it vividly. I might even be able to enjoy TV with others. I think it would be great if more people with corneal conditions like myself could use the device.
– On the other hand, is there anything that you think we should improve?
With the goggle-type device (RETISSA Display), I was able to see images on the tablet through a wire connection. However, the setup looks kind of bulky.
One of the reasons the tablet is being used by so many people with low vision is because they can use it just the same as others around them. There is resistance to using something when it looks different. Even if your vision improves, there is a psychological hurdle you must overcome just wondering if others find you a bit strange. The smartphone might not be as easy to read as the portable video magnifier, but it’s comfortable because it looks the same as what people are using around you.
A monocle may not be that prevalent, but it is small and subtle so does not seem that out of the ordinary. For these reasons, it would be great if the RETISSA Display was more compact overall. Something you can use simply and easily is best. Something you could carry in your hand might fit in best.
– Anything else?
It would be very convenient if you could use a camera as the input medium. Because even with my eyes I can see the image on a tablet somewhat.
One feature you might be able to improve is the resolution, although once you reach 4K or 8K resolution, there isn’t much difference. More importantly, it’s better when you have a broader range of views. Even if the resolution is poor, it can be very helpful if the projected image is large. It also might be nice if it projected not only to your macula (center of your eye) but to another part of your eye (periphery).
– Did you say “carry in your hand”?
When they are goggles-type, they sometimes slide off, so a device you could carry in your hand seems better. You would be able to do things like hold it in one hand while you write with the other hand.
Also, sometimes a piece of white paper can look really bright, so having a function that can turn the image into a black-white view would be good.
– Thank you for all of your advice. Our company is working on a variety of developments, so please look forward to new improvements.
Thank you so much. There are not that many people with my condition, so awareness can be low. I am looking forward to access not only existing devices in the wellness equipment space which simply magnify one’s view but also access to retinal imaging equipment which is based on a different type of technology.
– Thank you for meeting with us during such a busy time.
Ø This interview took place online on May 22nd.
Ø The views and opinions expressed in this interview do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency. Moreover, there are individual differences in vision.
Ø The RETISSA Display series is not a medical device. It is not intended for use as a treatment, auxiliary, or sight correction device for specific conditions.