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Augmented-Reality Technology May Help Treat ‘Lazy Eye’
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Augmented-Reality Technology May Help Treat ‘Lazy Eye’ (from Min Bao’s group)

Amblyopia (or “lazy eye”) is a visual disorder that shows extremely imbalance between the two eyes’ functions. It is typically treated by forcing the less dominant eye to adapt, either through lab-based training or wearing an eyepatch. But new research from the Institute of Psychology CAS suggests that people may be able to use wearable augmented-reality technology to reduce this visual discrepancy as they go about everyday activities.

With an altered-reality system developed from Prof. Min Bao’s group, participants interact with the natural world that is changed through real-time image processing. The system delivers altered but complementary video to each eye in real time, forcing participants to make use of the visual inputs to both eyes cooperatively. The altered-reality system can be considered as a special type of the augmented-reality technology, in which no unnatural and non-existing object (e.g. an arrow or a web page) is superimposed onto the camera video, but some contents of the original camera video are altered before delivered to the observer.

Using augmented-reality headsets to alter visual input avoids some limitations of lab-based training. This method manipulates the visual world electronically so as to incorporate training into everyday life. And the findings showed that improvement in ocular balance endured over a 2-month follow-up period. Several 3-hour adaptation sessions produced effects that strengthened when people returned to their normal visual environment after the training ended.

In another experiment, 18 participants who were actually diagnosed with amblyopia participated in a similar training procedure. Again, they showed improvement throughout the training phase and in the weeks that followed. On average, their improvement in visual acuity was equivalent to being able to read an additional 1.5 lines down on the standard logMAR eye chart.

Findings from a third group of participants indicated that the weaker eye showed improvement in various functions– such as dichoptic motion coherence, visual acuity, and interocular phase combination—as a result of training.

Bao and colleagues believe their findings could have important implications for work in a variety of domains, including clinical ophthalmology, neuroscience, engineering, and product development. The findings are published in Psychological Science in 2018, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. A patent based on this method was officially granted in 2018, which was partially transferred to a medical equipment company in Shanghai.


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