International recognition for vision-related inventions

Thursday, April 25, 2024
SLOPE and ObstAR teams

Two inventions that promise to respectively diagnose a common cause of vision loss earlier and improve independence for people with low vision have won prestigious prizes at the world's largest annual event devoted exclusively to invention.

The Centre for Eye and Vision Research, a collaboration between the University of Waterloo and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, entered the two inventions in the 2024 International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva. Both were awarded gold medals with congratulations of the jury.

The Structured Light Observation and Perception Evaluation (SLOPE) device is the world’s first application of quantum technology in vision science. It uses quantum spin-orbit beams of light to generate unique patterns that can be perceived by the human eye – but are perceived differently by people in even the earliest stages of macular degeneration.

Key SLOPE team members from Waterloo are Drs. Dmitry Pushin and David Cory of the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC); Dr. Ben Thompson of the School of Optometry and Vision Science, who is also CEO and scientific director of CEVR; and Dr. Dusan Sarenac, who is an adjunct assistant professor at the School in addition to having ties to CEVR and IQC. Hong Kong-based Dr. Mukhit Kulmaganbetov and Taranjit Singh round out the team.

Team members have set up two spin-out companies to commercialize the device – Incoherent Vision in North America and Entoptica in Asia. They hope it leads to the widespread earlier detection of macular degeneration so that vision loss can be delayed or prevented through early intervention.

In addition to the gold medal, SLOPE received a special prize from the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania, to honour its scientific creativity and originality.

Dr. Mukhit Kulmaganbetov and Taranjit Singh of the SLOPE team.

Dr. Mukhit Kulmaganbetov and Taranjit Singh of the SLOPE team.

The other gold medal-winning invention is called ObstAR. Fundamentally, it is a piece of augmented reality (AR) software that can be used with any extended reality headset or smart glasses system to help people with vision loss navigate the world around them independently. It leverages an individual user’s remaining vision along with camera data to highlight obstacles and point a safe path forward.

Led by Drs. Allen Cheong, deputy director of CEVR, and Thompson, key ObstAR team members are Nadim Zaro, Jiaqing (Jakie) Wang, and Drs. Jie Ding Jing and Ke Zhang of CEVR.

Both projects previously also won gold medals at the Asia Exhibition of Innovations and Inventions Hong Kong.

“This recognition will help accelerate the transition of these projects from research to commercial success,” said Thompson.

Jackie Wang, Dr. Allen Cheong and Nadim Zaro of the ObstAR team
Jackie Wang, Dr. Allen Cheong and Nadim Zaro of the ObstAR team