The days of vision therapy when the Brock String reigned supreme are over.
Technology has now entered every aspect of our lives, from vehicle backup cameras to voice-activated intelligent assistants like Amazon’s Alexa. As technology becomes more integrated with medicine and clinical care, optometry is poised to see a huge revolution in innovation. In fact, this revolution has already begun. A startup called Vivid Vision is tackling the vision therapy space using virtual reality to provide new and effective treatment in an otherwise stagnant market. And while the company has been helping treat binocular vision patients for several years, it is growing in new and exciting directions.
A New Realm of Vision Therapy
Vivid Vision creates video games for use on virtual reality devices as a new method of treating binocular vision disorders. With the VR world quickly evolving, what once seemed like science fiction is now a reality, helping optometrists deliver effective binocular vision care to their patients. The games are prescribed in-office to treat amblyopia, strabismus, and vergence disorders. Moreover, the treatment relies on ODs and Vision Therapists to oversee and modify care plans, giving practices a unique edge in the market (while not having to compete with direct-to-consumer technology).
The best part? The company recently released its “Home” version for patients to continue their therapy outside the office, allowing for faster progress, better compliance, and treatment monitoring. Never before has VT homework (or really any homework) been so enticing.
It’s no secret that vision therapy is a highly-demanded and lucrative service fairly exclusive to optometry, and using VR technology to integrate this into your practice may be a great way to get started. While classic VT methods such as the brock string, vectograms, and stereoscope still have a place in treatment regiments, Vivid Vision’s video games take a bold step in a new direction to help build your practice. Remember: the majority of BV conditions are fairly treatable with some simple VT, and you (yes, you) have the skill set to help many of these patients.
Personally, BV was a topic I always found intriguing, yet I didn’t want to practice vision therapy full-time. However, as a life-long avid gamer, my BV interest returned in full-force when the allure of a cool video game could connect me and my patients to VT. What’s more, wowing patients who don’t require VT with this cutting-edge technology is bound to earn referrals of their friends and family members who do. Any optometrist can drum up excitement around VT using the appeal of modern games to effectively treat many conditions, offer novel services, and grow the practice. Frankly, I might stay after hours just to play the games for fun.
Vivid Vision’s software is compatible with a range of VR devices such as the Rift, Google Daydream, HTC Vive, and more. As a bonus, recent advances in the VR realm have drastically lowered prices of these units, and various configurations are available.
For example, several VR devices (like the Rift) are purchased as a hardware-infused headset combined with a pair of hand-held controllers, while others (such as the Daydream) consist of a visor into which you insert your compatible smartphone. New technologies such as the Pico Goblin are revolutionary all-in-one headsets that feature affordable, wireless, fully mobile packages that do it all. I myself prefer the Daydream due to its low-price entry point and compatibility with my phone, which allows me to test it out before pulling the trigger on a pricier model.
Better yet, ODs are able to add these products to their practice and sell directly to patients. This product-plus-service revenue is often pure profit, as many vision therapy practices can tell you. Because of the variety of hardware available, Vivid Vision offers therapy options for all budgets — both for your practice, and your patients.
The game “Ring Runner” features a spaceship dashing through interstellar rings. The weak eye (OS in this case) is given enlarged targets, enhanced contrast, and virtual prism, while the strong eye is blurred globally.
“Pepper Picker” challenges the patient to grab a pepper from a cluttered background using a visual figure-ground element.
While the company was created out of a passion to provide novel vision therapy through VR, it also has its sights set on research. Vivid Vision is currently working with entities such as UC Berkeley, The City University of London, and UVEA Mediklinic in Slovakia to study new applications of binocular vision treatment through VR. Most impressively, they have contributed to a study published in BMC Ophthalmology on positive signs of amblyopia treatment effectiveness in adults, a patient group long thought not to benefit from vision therapy. If, like me, you had it ingrained in you that binocular vision cannot improve in adulthood, be prepared to open your mind to new ideas.
Co-Founder and CEO James Blaha discovered this for himself when first testing the software. He had suffered from strabismic and anisometropic amblyopia since childhood, and the early prototypes he created helped him achieve stereopsis for the first time. Prior to Vivid Vision, his VA OD was 20/20 corrected, while OS was reduced at 20/70 with a left eso/hyper deviation, and <3500 arcseconds stereo.
It goes to show that advances in binocular vision technology not only improve current forms of VT, but are even paving the way for breakthroughs in the field.
Of course, biotechnology needs medical expertise to function properly. The company’s professional team consists of optometrists, Vision Therapists, and scientific advisors to guide game development and the future direction of the company. Co-founder and Chief of Optometry Tuan Tran, OD tells me, “We are seeing significant change in eye care with the advancement of technology. Amblyopia was once deemed as not curable once past the critical period. Our goal was to challenge that thought. Now we are regularly contacted by patients of all ages with their success stories of how Vivid Vision changed their lives.” And as medical experts, it is our job indeed to change lives through patients’ vision — especially if that means providing modern binocular vision treatment options.
Director of Optometry Brian Dornbos, OD, FAAO encourages doctors who don’t normally engage in vision therapy to use available resources to get started. "Groups like OEP and COVD are great ways to expand your knowledge of vision therapy,” he says. “On Vivid Vision’s end, our clinical team works with new providers and therapists to teach them how to use our software. If there’s ever a question, we’re here to help."
Overall, technology integration is a really exciting advancement in the field of binocular vision. Had there been a residency focused on this outlet of eye care, I think my career might be very different today.
Keep an eye out for the team at optometry conferences - a picture may be worth a thousand words, but nothing beats a live VR demonstration when trying it yourself.
To learn more about Vivid Vision, get a pricing estimate, or schedule an online demonstration & consultation for your practice, email email@example.com.