James Blaha had never been able to see in 3D before. He has strabismus or more commonly known as crossed eye, which has prevented him from being able to have each eye look at the same point in space. This can lead to lazy eye or Amblyopia and cause a loss of depth perception.

james-blaha2It used to be common knowledge that there was a critical period to treat these conditions needed to be successfully treated between the ages of 8-10 years old, otherwise it was believed that the visual system would be hard-wired for the rest of their life. However, there have been a number of neuroplasticity studies over the past couple of years that indicated that the brain was more malleable than we previously thought and that it was possible to have effective treatments for lazy eye.

James had been following this neuroplasticity research and decided to start a virtual reality, side project with the Oculus Rift to put some of these studies into practice. He created some scenes that increased the intensity to his lazy eye and decreased the intensity to his good eye, and he was blown away at being able to see in 3D for the first time in his life. Encouraged with his success, he continued to develop a series of games that he played for over 20 hours over the course of 3 weeks until he was able to see in 3D in the real world for the first time in his life.

James tells his story of creating his Diplopia virtual reality game and what type of research interest he’s receiving. He also had a very successful Indiegogo campaign, which enabled him to have other people try Diplopia as well. He talks about other people who have had similar success with being able to see in 3D for the first time, and that there are a number of controlled research studies under way to verify these results.

James says that what gets him excited about the future applications of virtual reality is that for the first time ever, we’re able to finely control the input given to the brain. This means that we’re going to be able to control human perception on a precise level and that it will have more applications than anyone imagines.

It makes me wonder that with the neuroplasticity of our brains and the principle of spaced repetition of controlled perceptual input through virtual reality, then what other types of nascent capabilities will we be able to unlock for ourselves? There are already implications for Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for PTSD, cerebral palsy, autism, pain management and beyond.

I agree with James that we’re just starting to scratch the surface for what’s possible with the medical & psychological applications for virtual reality. There’s been a lot of research happening in these areas, but I have a feeling that it will become a lot more popular now that there will be affordable VR devices available to consumers for the first time.

Reddit discussion here.

TOPICS

  • 0:00 – Intro & developing Diplopia to help with lazy eye, and being able see in 3D for the first time
  • 1:00 – Being able to see in 3D in the real world after 20 hours of playing across 3 weeks
  • 1:33 – Who’s heard of this breakthrough so far?
  • 2:02 – What do you have to do to maintain 3D vision in the real world? Similar to a weak muscle
  • 2:35 – Did you imagine that you would be able to get to this point in the beginning? Reading neuroplasticity research studies related to lazy eye.
  • 3:09 – Have there been others who have been able to successfully see in 3D? Example of eliminating double vision. Testimonial video from Dillon
  • 3:47 – Spaced repetition bringing improvement in vision.
  • 3:58 – What is the optimal time for learning using this? 15 minutes every other day.
  • 4:26 – What was the previous “common knowledge” thinking about the critical age for when the visual system would hard-wired? It used to be 8-10 years old until neuroplasticity studies started coming out. Traditional methods of treating lazy eye don’t really work.
  • 5:20 – What other research interest has Diplopia received?
  • 5:55 – More details about the game and the game design, and how you make it fun. Take advantage of the brain’s goal and reward system. The goal of the game is to improve your vision.
  • 6:37 – Two miniature games at the moment, and building out more.
  • 7:00 – What gets you excited about the potential for Virtual Reality? Able to finely control the input to the brain, and being able to control perception on a fine level will have more applications than anyone imagines.
  • 7:49 – What’s next for Diplopia? Get it out and help as many people as they can.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

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