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Virtual Workout for Lazy Eyes

Photonics Spectra
May 2006
Amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” is a condition in which one eye is forced to work harder than the other and the less-used eye’s vision progressively degenerates. The traditional treatment for the problem has been to cover the good eye with a patch for lengthy periods, forcing the patient to use and strengthen the slacker.

Now researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK have reported promising success with virtual reality games that may improve vision without the pirate look and, more importantly, by making the eyes work together.

The university has licensed the interactive binocular treatment, or I-BiT, technology to ophthalmic equipment specialist Carleton Ltd. of Chesham, UK, for development and marketing. In the prototype system, various parts of a car-race game are shown to each eye simultaneously, with the lazy eye receiving the more interesting or pertinent information and the good eye getting background or nonessential details. The eyes must focus together to complete the picture, but the weaker one is stimulated to go for the juicy stuff needed to navigate and win.

Research on the effectiveness of the treatment is ongoing, but preliminary trials have shown rapid, lasting improvement — and the children who participated in the test seemed to enjoy the medium. Is it possible that one day parents will be nudging their offspring to hurry and finish their homework so that they’ll have time for computer games?


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