Dr. Abhishek Mandal, Ph.D.
Senior Business Adviser, Vision Science Academy, London, U.K.
Vision Science Academy Exclusive
What is Augmented and Virtual Reality?
Augmented reality (AR) is a modernized computer-based system where the user’s visual field is supplemented with surplus information generated through a computer program. On the contrary, virtual reality (VR) entirely substitutes the user’s own visual field with extraordinary real-time, three-dimensional (3D) details of a virtual world (Cipresso, Giglioli, Raya, & Riva, 2018). Both VR and AR have shown a remarkable potential in various fields of heavy industry as well as diagnostic and therapeutic medicine. This technology continues to expand today as several promising applications of AR and VR still need to be unlocked.
Here in this article, we will direct our focus to their diagnostic potential in the field of visual sciences.
AR and VR in Vision Sciences
An ophthalmic disorder can arise from a disarray encompassing different individual components of the eye including the cornea, the retina, or the intraocular lens. With the use of AR and VR, we can now implement novel therapeutic solutions to such issues.
(1) Binocular Vision
In order to construct a comprehensible 3D image which captures all the in-depth details of an object, both eyes must accommodate at an equivocal distance. Otherwise, accommodation errors may result in ocular fatigue and blurred vision. AR displays possess the capability to auto-adjust the specifics of an image, a technological feature which can help it to substitute the prescription glasses (Aydındoğan, Kavaklı, Şahin, Artal, & Ürey, 2021).
(2) Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration or ARMD leads to a loss of central vision secondary to retinal degeneration. The application of AR edge enhancement technique has been shown to boost contrast sensitivity in ARMD. This creates margins along the outlines of all the different objects within the visual field, thereby allowing the ARMD patients to appreciate their visual details in a more elaborative manner. VR has also enabled us to obtain better understanding of the central vision experienced by ARMD patients (Hwang & Peli, 2014).
Chronic glaucoma leads to the pathogenesis of tunnel vision where only central field of vision is left intact. Head-mounted displays utilizing AR have been proposed as a novel tool to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma. AR models have been proposed where a computerized system gathers all the visual data from the peripheral field of vision and projects it into the central tunnel field. Similar versions of this AR tool help detect any noticeable threats in the peripheral field, and then alert the users through their central tunnel field of vision (Aydındoğan et al., 2021). Furthermore, VR platforms have been prepared where trainees can experience the true nature of a tunnel vision (Jones, Somoskeöy, Chow-Wing-Bom, & Crabb, 2020).
(4) Colour Blindness
Colour correction glasses have been designed which use AR to assist the colour blind people in a convenient identification of coloured obstacles which otherwise, can’t be detected by them (Aydındoğan et al., 2021).
(5) Eye Examination Skills
Medical teaching can be revolutionized by widespread use of VR applications. Besides ARMD and glaucoma, advanced VR tools have the potential to increase the learning efficacy of ophthalmology trainees regarding strabismus or squint. Statistical data have indicated that VR scenarios promote a much rapid learning of examination skills necessary for the diagnosis of different types of squint (Moon et al., 2021).
Both AR and VR possess an uncharted potential to change the diagnostic and therapeutic approach for the common visual impairments. Further practical research is warranted to unlock their diverse capabilities which can certainly change the outlook of vision science as we know it.
Aydındoğan, G., Kavaklı, K., Şahin, A., Artal, P., & Ürey, H. (2021). Applications of augmented reality in ophthalmology [Invited]. Biomedical Optics Express, 12(1), 511-538. doi:10.1364/BOE.405026
Cipresso, P., Giglioli, I. A. C., Raya, M. A., & Riva, G. (2018). The Past, Present, and Future of Virtual and Augmented Reality Research: A Network and Cluster Analysis of the Literature. 9(2086). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02086
Hwang, A. D., & Peli, E. (2014). An augmented-reality edge enhancement application for Google Glass. Optom Vis Sci, 91(8), 1021-1030. doi:10.1097/opx.0000000000000326
Jones, P. R., Somoskeöy, T., Chow-Wing-Bom, H., & Crabb, D. P. (2020). Seeing other perspectives: evaluating the use of virtual and augmented reality to simulate visual impairments (OpenVisSim). npj Digital Medicine, 3(1), 32. doi:10.1038/s41746-020-0242-6
Moon, H. S., Yoon, H. J., Park, S. W., Kim, C. Y., Jeong, M. S., Lim, S. M., . . . Heo, H. (2021). Usefulness of virtual reality-based training to diagnose strabismus. Sci Rep, 11(1), 5891. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-85265-8