0 In Game-Based Learning

This virtual reality game could cure lazy eye

Scientists believed lazy eye couldn’t be treated after seven years of age, but Vivid Vision is helping patients of all ages regain their depth perception.

Amblyopia, better known as “lazy eye,” happens when one eye is weaker than the other. Over time, the brain learns to “ignore” the other eye, which all but disables your depth perception. Around 20 million people are living with all the other lovely symptoms lazy eye brings, from double vision to a jarring, “wandering” eye.

Playing Vivid Vision’s virtual reality game could help assess and improve lazy eye symptoms, re-training your brain to acknowledge that poor, forsaken eye. The home version, complete with a full storyline, is slated for release next year for less than $100.

So, does it work? Or nah?

How it works — the “explain it like I’m five” version

There’s nothing physically wrong with a lazy eye, says Vivid Vision CEO James Blaha. It’s actually not even “lazy,” just bashful and shy; your eye has been trying to communicate with your brain all this time, but brain-kun just doesn’t seem to notice it.

My non-optometrist anime fangirl explanation is thus: Vivid is slowly but surely convincing brain-kun that eye-chan is pretty kawaii.

And, it multitasks. The game tracks your progress and improvement over time. If your doctor is using the clinical version of Vivid, your at-home data syncs with theirs. While you’re at home having a blast on your doctor-prescribed virtual reality space game and bragging to your friends about it, Doc’s keeping tabs on how well your eyes have been getting along. So, if this were an anime, Vivid would be your high school wingman and your attractive English teacher!

Do you have to play it with a clinician?

Blaha said in this March 2015 interview that with a practice regimen of 30-60 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, a player would “start noticing changes inside of virtual reality within the first week or two, and then those changes start to have persist outside of virtual reality after 3-4 weeks.”

So, a noticeable improvement in eye function in less than a month? Not too shabby. I look forward to chatting with someone who’s tried out the system in the future, when the home version comes out.

On that note, the home bundle includes a VR headset, desktop computer, gesture tracker. And, because waving at screens for a half-hour a day is kinda weird, they’re throwing in an Xbox controller.

Yet the home bundle doesn’t need to work in tandem with a clinician’s help. That’s why it exists.

“Our goal still is and has always been to help the most people with amblyopia and strabismus as possible,” Blaha said in a blog post. The home version helps to serve those who might not have frequent access to a clinician.

About the startup

Vivid Vision, previously Diplopia, is a San Francisco-based startup. Vivid’s Indiegogo campaign in January 2014 shot for $2,000 in hopes of buying a legit Unity license, and walked with a whopping $20,535 in a single month.

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