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 Virtual Reality Treat Lazy Eye

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Date posted: 09/04/2006

Amblyopia, better known as lazy eye, is a medical condition whereby one eye works better than the other. Because the lazy eye is inferior for whatever reason, the brain decides to use the good eye more and more. Over a period of years, the neural connections to the lazy eye degrade, and the eye wanders off on its own accord, as its not really being used by the brain.

Traditional treatment for this condition is to place an eyepatch over the good eye, and leave it there for 400 hours plus ? this forces the brain to use the lazy eye as the only eye, and the neural connections gradually strengthen.

Researchers at Nottingham University have created a prototype stereoscopic VR system, which not only encourages the lazy eye to work harder, but also forces both eyes to work as a pair.

"Traditionally VR has been used to present realistic environments in 3D so you imagine you're there because of the depth of the world around you," said Richard Eastgate of the university's Virtual Reality Applications Research Team.
"But we're using VR to make something unrealistic. You could call it virtual unreality,"
"We're actually presenting two different versions of the world to each eye."

The system uses a stereoscopic BOOM type display held on a stand in front of the patient. Its massive size is due to its ophthalmic specifications ? it is simply too big to be mounted into a HMD. Designed to cut out the external world as far as visual stimulus goes, it allows the researchers to control exactly what input goes to each eye. This allows their experiments to search for exactly the right ways to force the eyes to work equally hard, and together.

In one experiment, the team has been trying out a racing game where the computer sends images of the player's own car to the amblyopic eye, but the other cars go to the good eye. The game is played with both eyes open and the amblyopic eye is given additional visual stimuli to encourage the eye to be used. Obstacles on the track are sent alternately to each eye, so both eyes team up to get the patient through the game.

The results were amazing.

"We thought we'd develop a system that needed about 400 hours of treatment like patching. In the end we achieved the same effect in an hour," said Dr Eastgate.

See the full Story via external site: news.bbc.co.uk

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