Oculus VR used to help people with double vision

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ByJonathan Bloom KGO logo
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Oculus VR used to help people with double vision
Two cutting-edge products, Oculus VR and Leap Motion, are being used as medical tools to help patients with double vision.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- It was video game central in Los Angeles Tuesday as the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, got underway.

The exhibitors included two cutting-edge hardware companies, both promising to put you in the game like never before. Those same devices are now being used for a much more serious use -- helping people see in real life.

Pre-order the game at Diplopiagame.com/donate and contact at Diplopiagame.com/contact.

Dillon Thomas is playing with some of the coolest toys on the planet -- the Oculus VR headset and Leap Motion, where your bare hands are the controller. But he's doing more than just playing.

"My brain is relearning how to see," he said.

Thomas was born with crossed eyes. There's surgery to fix that, but it doesn't fix the brain.

"I basically have had double vision my entire life," Thomas said.

Fortunately, Thomas is not alone. It's a condition that affects an estimated 20 million people, including James Blaha.

"I was born with a lazy eye," he said.

Blaha had tried everything before creating a computer game called Diplopia, which literally means double vision.

He thought it might his eyes work together. He had no idea how right he was.

"That moment when I first saw in 3-D right away was the moment that I dropped everything else, started working on it full time," Blaha said.

Now, researchers have been studying using computer games to treat lazy eye for a couple of years, but this is something new. Because it has two discrete eye pieces and two discrete images, Oculus was practically made for this.

"We send more stimulus to the weak eye," said Diplopia Chief Technology Officer Manish Gupta. "In order to basically trick the brain into start using it."

Blaha's co-founder Gupta showed us how a brick breaking game puts the ball in one eye and the paddle in the other. If you want to score points your eyes have to line up.

"It's fun, it's engaging, I forget that I'm trying to train my eyes," Thomas said. "I'm just trying to hit the balls and my brain's doing the rest."

Over time, he's become a pro at it.

But what's more remarkable is the lasting effect some people report long after the headset comes off.

"I was able to gain 3-D vision not just in virtual reality but also in the real world," said Blaha.

"The world becomes a different place," Thomas added. "For me it's become a lot more beautiful, there's a lot more detail, I can actually see things a lot faster."

Though the game's not out yet, they're looking for people to take part in a university study before its release.

"And what's really amazing is that, you know, 20 million people are gonna be helped by this," Thomas said.