Using “VR” to prevent blindness

Michael WallResearchers from the University of Iowa and VA Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Visual Loss are developing a new method of visual field testing that uses a virtual-reality (VR) headset to detect blinding eye diseases such as glaucoma.

Dr. Michael Wall, professor of neurology and ophthalmology, is collaborating with other researchers to design and build an alternative visual field testing device that is portable and less expensive than current devices. The VR headset works by connecting an Android device into the headset, then inputting select patient identifying data before beginning visual tests. Testing provides a measure of central and peripheral vision, or side vision, and is used to detect problems caused by glaucoma, stroke, and other eye or brain problems.

Glaucoma causes irreversible blindness so detecting it early is critical to preventing the progression of vision loss and blindness. This device could provide visual testing and monitoring in different settings such as waiting rooms, outreach clinics, and in a patient’s home. 

“We are excited about building a VR headset which will improve testing of the field of view. This device makes testing more accessible to our veteran community and others who might be facing vision loss from glaucoma,” shares Wall.

The device and research were shared at a Congressional demonstration in Washington, D.C. where members of Congress and staff had an opportunity to strap on the headset and learn about the new technology. The project was one of three selected by the Veterans Administration to be shared with Congress.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019