Saturday, August 19, 2017

Technology gives legally blind Peoria boy a chance to fly

PEORIA — National Aviation Day isn’t a widely celebrated occasion, but it will be unforgettable nonetheless for Ryan Rusk.

The 12-year-old sixth grader at Lindbergh Middle School took to the skies Saturday with the help of an emerging technology that promises to have a vast impact on almost all aspects of his life.

Rusk is legally blind, but a pair of eSight glasses has restored a significant amount of his vision — enough to take the controls of an airplane as it soared over the Illinois River.

“I could zoom in on the river and the buildings,” Rusk said after the flight, made possible as part of a Young Eagles flying program. “It was still a little hard because of the brightness of the sun.”

Rusk first heard about eSight technology through social media. He immediately investigated whether the device — a combination of high-resolution video and processing equipment — could help him.

The device displays imagery in front of the glasses on screens immediately in the wearer’s sight with a video algorithm calibrated for individual conditions.

Blind in one eye and with severely reduced vision in the other, Rusk found out the technology could apply to him and set about raising the money to get one.

“I was raising money for I don’t even know how long,” Rusk said.

His own pair arrived about a year ago. With the headset and control unit in a satchel he carries, everyday details suddenly came into focus — with the ability to zoom in on objects he couldn’t even previously see.

“With the glasses, I can read newspaper-type print,” Rusk said. “Normally, I read Braille.”

Now, Rusk uses his eSight glasses all the time, but because of depth-perception issues related to his optical condition, he can’t wear them while walking.

“They’re more for zooming in and being able to see things,” Rusk said. “They feel pretty natural — it took a little getting used to, but they feel like a normal pair of glasses now.”

And the device has opened up new possibilities — including a little bit of time as a pilot.

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Twelve-year-old Ryan Rusk is living out a lifelong dream of flying a plane.

"I just like going up and seeing stuff"

It's a dream difficult enough for most twelve year olds, but even more difficult for Ryan.

"Ryan was born with optic nerve hypoplasia," his grandmother, Annette Fisher, explains. "We actually started discovering it at three months. He was not following voices or people in the room and his eyes were jumping."

Ryan is Blind, but he's getting help from a new technology -- called E-sight. The device enhances Ryan's partial vision.

"It's a camera that is in real time," Annette says. "That brings it in and sets it so that its right where he needs to see it with where his vision is."

Ryan's Grandmother knew about his passion for flying and discovered the young eagles. A group that gives kids a chance to actually get in the cockpit. Now, thanks to Young Eagles and E-Sight, Ryan can see out the window of a plane.

"I just went up, and I could see more than I could see before," says Ryan. "I had never been in a plane before"

"He was able to look out and see where the river was, because they fly towards Chillicothe," his grandmother says. "Got to see where the river was and he could tell the difference in things even from up in the air with the E-sight glasses on. He's never held back. He's always done what he wanted to do, but this really opens it up more in what he can see now."

With the progress in technology, there's still hope that Ryan can have a future in aviation.

"Everything's changing. They've got cars that are going to be driving themselves real soon. I don't know that he'd ever be able to do it on his own, but there's a chance that he would be able to be a co-pilot. We'll just have to wait and see." 

Original article ➤

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