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Doctor Uses Oculus Rift to Help Visually Impaired

A large part of the virtual reality (VR) experience depends on visuals. Developers need to create immersive environments that cause users to feel as if they have stepped into another world. However, UC San Diego’s Dr. Felipe Medeiros is using the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) not to create the perfect visual experience but to actually help in his study of those suffering from glaucoma, a disease that attacks optic nerves and leaves victims visually impaired and upsets their natural balance.

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As reported by KPBS, Medeiros has been using the Oculus Rift to conduct new tests on glaucoma sufferers. In some cases the disease can greatly diminish a victim’s peripheral vision, making everyday life much more challenging and dangerous. In order to study the disease further, Mederios placed patients on a special platform that detected any movements they made. Strapping on the Oculus Rift, users found themselves in a virtual tunnel. The edges of this tunnel would then begin to move, giving the viewer the sensation of being pulled back and forth.

During this stage, Medeiros recorded movements the patient made. The results found a high correlation between glaucoma sufferers and those that wobbled far more than usual during this stage. The doctor hopes to refine the procedure to help others spot balance problems early on and start treatment before the real damage sets in. This is made viable thanks to the relative affordability of the Oculus Rift compared to previous VR solutions. Medeiros even noted that the test “performed better than the conventional test that we use in clinical practice.”

With the Oculus Rift set to go on sale in Q1 2016, hopefully VR technology is about to start making a much bigger impact on the medical industry. VRFocus will continue to follow any and all uses of the Oculus Rift, reporting back with the latest on them.