Vision loss affects more than 25 million American adults, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. And as the current U.S. population grows older, this number will grow, too.

Deteriorating vision can have limiting effects on a person’s lifestyle — and sometimes force them to rely on expensive assisted care.

I spoke with Ammad Khan of IrisVision, an innovative company that is leveraging virtual reality (VR) technology to help older Americans with low vision regain their autonomy, and learned a bit more about how this is changing lives nationwide.

“We found that there was a huge gap with how technology was serving vision-impaired individuals,” Khan said. “We started working on this concept by combining what we understand about the visual process and taking advantage of the development in the hardware technology — specifically the smartphone getting better and better.”

By utilizing Samsung Galaxy smartphones and Gear VR headsets, IrisVision created a vision enhancement system that can help people with conditions such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy. During three initial training sessions, customers learn to magnify areas of their surroundings, take advantage of the high contrast reading modes and use IrisVision to view videos and photos.

IrisVision works in a variety of different settings and lets people with low vision do many things they couldn’t before, from reading at home to watching television to outdoor activities. It can even enable someone to continue working.

“What happens is they turn [the Gear VR headset on and] instantly they are able to start seeing faces,” Khan added. “They’re able to read — basically all of the things that were taken away from them with the deterioration of their vision … and they start living independently.”

With these enhancements in technology, a vision-impaired person can increase their access to not only the physical world, but the digital one as well.

Learn more about the innovative solutions leveraging Samsung mobile technology that are changing healthcare as we know it.