August 11, 2008

Virtual Reality Goggles Create Equal Opportunity Eye Test

Visual field tests are widely used by eye doctors and neurologists. By determining the health of the retina, optic nerve and the visual pathway throughout the brain, the test can uncover glaucoma and conditions such as optic neuritis or brain damage. Essential to undergo before one can drive a car or fly a plane, the visual field test is also used to pinpoint neurological damage after an accident or surgery.

Today's visual field test is hard to pass, especially among those who need it the most. Sitting at the machine with the chin propped up on a ledge, a patient must fix their eye at a target and then simultaneously press a button when stimulated with light. "The test is uncomfortable, not entirely accurate, and difficult for the elderly, children and people with disabilities," says Dr. Arieh S. Solomon, Head of Experimental Ophthalmology at Tel Aviv University's Maurice and Gabriela Goldschleger Eye Research Institute, Sackler Faculty of Medicine.

As an eye research doctor, Dr. Solomon thought there could be a better solution and has recently developed a breakthrough technology -- a visual field test that comes in a compact device worn over the eyes as goggles, and which solves the limitations of the current standard test.

A Visual Improvement

The new Tel Aviv University-developed device ­-- the VIP Virtual Perimetry -- removes the physical limitations of the traditional bulky machine used today. The new device is able to instantly study and measure a patient's reflex, when presented with a visual stimulus. Equally exciting, the new device removes previously high rates of false negatives and positives answers, says Dr. Solomon, who integrated three technologies to develop the VIP goggles.

"Past the age of 60, every person has to go for this test every two years before renewing their driver's license," he says. "People tire from it quickly and it reports false information on a large number of people who are unable to sit still in the machine," he adds. The new cost-effective goggle device can be connected and used anywhere there is a computer hook-up, even in developing countries, or at a patient's bedside while under care.

Endorsed by International Eye Doctors

Patented by Ramot, the technology transfer arm of Tel Aviv University, the VIP was created and tested in a clinical setting by the Israeli company Iview Ltd. It could be ready for commercialization in the U.S. within a year, if given the right financial backing, says Dr. Solomon, who also received support from the Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Trade and Industry to develop the device.

The VIP has been tested on eye doctors who have given it rave reviews during the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), an international organization. "The VIP was appreciated by all of the doctors who wanted to test it for themselves. They know the problems with the current visual field test and welcome a new solution," concludes Dr. Solomon.


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