Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

On Tech & Vision With Dr. Cal Roberts

Jul 1, 2021

This podcast is about big ideas on how technology is making life better for people with vision loss.

Today’s big idea is the power of virtual reality - how people are using VR to remap sight and help people with vision loss in their daily lives Dr. Roberts visits with Grace Andruszkiewicz and Dr. Frank Werblin about how emerging technologies help people with low vision access the areas of vision they still have, by using a virtual reality system. They also talk about how sight works biologically, and how one such device, IrisVision, works to connect people socially. 

The Big Takeaways:

  • Virtual reality changes the sensory inputs our brain receives, to change the visual field our eyes are scanning and the sounds we are hearing. These new inputs trick the brain into thinking we’re in a different reality. 
  • IrisVision is a combination of a Samsung phone and a headset for virtual reality that modulates the visual field of a person with low vision so they can see better. The technology re-maps the visual world they’re seeing so it becomes resonant with their individual pathology.
  • The development of IrisVision technology started as a device to improve macular degeneration, but has evolved to resolve any type of visual pathology (retinal versus cortical), including magnification or “minification” (reducing the size) to modify the visual field depending on the user’s visual function. 
  • IrisVision re-mapping provides the brain access to the raw material; after using the device for a few months, users’ native vision is often improved, ultimately leading to a renewed social connection for users. 
  • People who use the device need to have some remaining vision.



“What’s really meaningful too is helping people go back to places that are really emotionally meaningful from their past. When they feel like they’re back in that place or doing that thing, they come alive again.” - Grace Andruszkiewicz describing senior’s experience with virtual reality

“Because the screen is a half an inch from your eyes, it’s not uncommon for people to see something clearly for the first time in a VR headset.” - Grace Andruszkiewicz

“It occurred to me that what was needed was a low-cost, non-invasive device that could recode the visual message in a way that would resonate with those islands of sight that people still have remaining.” - Dr. Frank Werblin on the development of IrisVision

“Assisting patients with visual loss has a much broader function - it reconnects people with each other. IrisVision assists people in seeing the visual world, but what it’s really doing is reconnecting them socially.” - Dr. Frank Werblin

Contact Us:

Contact us at with your innovative new technology ideas for people with vision loss.

Pertinent Links:

Lighthouse Guild



Guest Bios:

Dr. Frank Werblin, Co-Founder, Chief Scientist, IrisVision

IrisVision was founded by Dr. Frank Werblin, an MIT graduate, Guggenheim Fellow, and professor at UC Berkeley. Dr. Werblin is renowned for his scientific contributions to our understanding of retinal functioning. He has dedicated his life to innovating, developing and delivering an affordable non-invasive solution for millions of people with low vision. With the help of our research partners at Stanford, Johns Hopkins, UC Berkeley, UPMC, The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, and other institutions contributing to low vision science, IrisVision is the realization of that lifetime of work. He is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of low vision solutions by continuing to expand the relationship with top vision scientists and technology powerhouses like Samsung.

Grace Andruszkiewicz, Director of Marketing & Partnerships, Rendever

Host Bio

Dr. Calvin W. Roberts

Calvin W. Roberts, M.D., is President and Chief Executive Officer of Lighthouse Guild, the leading organization dedicated to addressing and preventing vision loss. Dr. Roberts has a unique blend of academic, clinical, business, and hands-on product development experience. Dr. Roberts is a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College. He was formerly Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Eye Care, at Bausch Health Companies where he coordinated global development and research efforts across their vision care, pharmaceutical and surgical business units. As a practicing ophthalmologist from 1982 to 2008, he performed more than 10,000 cataract surgeries as well as 5,000 refractive and other corneal surgeries. He is credited with developing surgical therapies, over-the-counter products for vision care, prescription ocular therapeutics, and innovative treatment regimens. He also holds patents on the wide-field specular microscope and has done extensive research on ophthalmic non-steroidals and postoperative cystoid macular edema. Dr. Roberts has co-founded a specialty pharmaceutical company and is a frequent industry lecturer and author. He currently serves as an Independent Director on multiple corporate boards and has served as a consultant to Allergan, Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis. A graduate of Princeton University and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, Dr. Roberts completed his internship and ophthalmology residency at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York. He also completed cornea fellowships at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston.