Harnessing Virtual Reality to Deliver Vision Therapy

An estimated 12 to 24 million people in the U.S. have a visual dysfunction called “convergency insufficiency” (CI), where reading a book or working at a computer for more than 20 minutes can trigger headaches and blurred or double vision.

Among people with traumatic brain injuries, including concussion, the percentage may be as high a 50 percent. The impact on children is especially severe, impeding cognition and learning.

Despite being highly treatable, CI often goes uncorrected because of the cost of traditional therapy and the lack of discipline in doing home-based exercises. The pioneering work of NJIT’s Tara Alvarez, however, could change all of this. With public and private funding, Dr. Alvarez and her team of engineers, game designers, artists and software programmers are creating virtual reality games that aim to deliver fun, engaging and economical therapies at home. The innovative solution also captures data on eye movements as well as the amount of time played so clinicians can follow their patients’ progress remotely. The team has won two grants as well as venture capital funding to begin commercializing their work.

The work builds on Dr. Alvarez’s earlier groundbreaking research — the design and building of a one-of-a-kind instrument that simultaneously measures eye movement and accommodation (the ability to see images clearly) in a system that has no moving parts.

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Tara Alvarez
Tara AlvarezProfessor of Biomedical Engineering, Newark College of Engineering, and Director of the Vision and Neural Engineering Lab

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