I have been interested in Virtual Reality (VR) for a long time. In the early 2000's I had my first computer-aided "augmented reality" experience at Wired's NEXTFEST. I got to put on a headset and play a human-sized game of PacMan, where I walked around a real-life maze and ate virtual power-pellets. It was very eye-opening to the possibilities of VR.
Then at a MakerFaire in Orlando, I experienced VR paragliding. I sat in a mounted paragliding harness with an Oculus Rift on my face and a fan blowing on me to simulate wind. I soared through a canyon controlling the virtual glider with the hand-pulls from above. Again, it was both fun and extraordinarily realistic!
About that time, I had an idea for an adventure game that was 3D and fun to play, but would also be therapy for people who have binocular vision problems such as amblyopia and strabismus. This game would take all the principles of vision therapy, but make it much more engaging and effective. I am very happy to say that something similar to this has been made by Vivid Vision. We offer this Virtual Reality therapy as a part of our vision therapy program. It is even more effective as what I envisioned, and the results we've seen has been absolutely incredible.
This morning I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Note to Self . It is about being human in a world of technology. The episode was about Virtual Reality and the benefits and challenges it presents. The show included an interesting idea that I had not thought much about: harnessing VR as biofeedback for other forms of therapy. So I did a little research and found out that there is indeed serious research looking into this.
Here are some examples:
- Virtual Reality treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Virtual Reality Treatment for Anxiety
- Virtual Reality Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Virtual Reality in Overcoming Phobias
- Virtual Reality to Treat Depression
All of these topics revolve around mental heath (i'm no expert), which is often about perception of reality and how well patients respond to experiential treatment. Interestingly, the visual problems that we treat in my office are often about perception, and my patients continue to respond well to experiential therapy.
As you can see, we've come a long way from VR Pac-Man!I enjoy seeing the results from using VR in our vision therapy program, and I cannot wait to see how this technology evolves!
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care and Bright Eyes Kids