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Virtual Reality Therapy

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!

Virtual Reality Therapy

Jamie-Lee demonstrating Vivid Vision

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:

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!

-Dr. Nate

Bright Eyes Family Vision Care and Bright Eyes Kids

4 responses to “Virtual Reality Therapy”

  1. Glad to see other Optometrists interested in this technology! We are incorporating Vivid Vision into our vision therapy clinic as well and it is great to hear your experience has been a good one.

    I did a talk about Virtual Reality, Vision and Learning at the SxSWedu conference this year. It is interesting to me that researchers and VR users are unaware that difficulties with VR could indicate a vision problem. For more info:

    Jen Simonson, OD, FCOVD

  2. brighteyes says:

    Dr. Simonson,

    That is fantastic that you gave the talk at SxSWedu! Very important information. I’ll share your link.

    -Dr. Nate

  3. Bailey says:

    Awesome! This does seem to have a lot potential! But I am not sure it’s a very practical approach. After all not many people will can have access to it, plus I bet this kind of theraphies can be really expensive and those offering them need to be trained well. I can imagine the cost being rather high. It’s one of those things that sound great in theory, I think.

  4. brighteyes says:

    Well, think of it this way. Treating these kinds of vision problems is already time consuming and therefore expensive. So if VR makes the process faster, it may actually make it is less expensive. Also, the cost of VR itself is falling and there will be a home version of Vivid Vision soon (under doctor’s supervision).

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