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Hilton Center Low Vision Testing Lab

Chicago, IL

This unique lab environment helps people that are blind learn to use new visual aid technology


The Chicago Lighthouse organization has been implementing the use of new sensory substitution devices and vision restoration technologies for people with severe vision impairment, but they required a special environment for individuals to test these new devices. The sensory substitution devices are worn on the user’s head and utilizes a built-in camera to read the individual’s surroundings, while this visual information is replicated in a “black and white scene” on a pad placed on the user’s tongue. The tongue is sensitive enough to interpret the grid of bubble-like dots on the pad that change in size and give a slight vibration to reflect high contrast visuals picked up by the camera. Due to the complex nature of learning to use these devices, along with the limited resolution output on the tongue pad, The Chicago Lighthouse team needed a training environment that would make learning to use these devices easier.

Design Solution:

Due to the limited visual output of the devices, the environment for testing these tools had to be designed with high contrast colors for maximum visibility, yet still look pleasing to people with clear vision. To achieve this, we relied heavily on the Lighthouse’s navy blue brand color and incorporated a warm white for the necessary contrast. Furnishings were selected based on the ability to customize the materials for glare-free and high contrast surfaces that can be seen by the devices. Within the space, there are a number of different test areas to demo the equipment: the floor has a light-colored path down the middle for people to walk down; a replica seeing-eye-dog that can be moved around the room; a street light graphic with interchangeable street signs; a silicon edge graphic frame with interchangeable graphics; a kitchenette with a dining table allows users to practice common daily activities with the new assistive vision device; and a special projector & projection screen that enhances contrast, allows the user to test endless new visuals—like walking down a sidewalk—in a safe environment. Located just a few steps from the Tools for Living Retail Store, The Hilton Center for Prosthetic Vision Rehabilitation provides a safe and comfortable environment for people to learn how to use these life-changing devices.