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Video game screens for eye disorders

by Megan Fink
Public Relations
Millions of elementary school children experience vision problems such as amblyopia, or lazy eye, that are treatable if found early. Most schools screen their students with a wall-mounted eye chart that is easy to memorize. To help provide more accurate results, researchers at the Storm Eye Institute have validated a software program that screens children for vision disorders while they “play” a video game.
With a grant from S.C. Physicians Care Charity, MUSC’s Storm Eye Institute team has beta-tested and scientifically validated the VisionQuest 20/20 prototype from Amblyopia Foundation of America (AFA), founded by Storm Eye graduate Jim O’Neil, M.D., now practicing in Phoenix, Ariz. AFA plans to develop and commercialize the technology, which also was invented by O’Neil.
Storm Eye Institute chairman Dr. Edward Wilson and South Carolina Physicians Care Charity’s executive director Gene Beckman watch a Charleston County student navigate the VisionQuest 20/20 software.
Storm Eye researchers were brought in to provide objective analysis and identify logistical hurdles the system needed to overcome before distribution.
“Computer video-game technology will modernize vision screening performed at schools,” said Edward Wilson, M.D., Storm Eye chairman. “The VisionQuest 20/20 prototype testing and evaluation is a shining example of the value a research university brings to an entrepreneurial start-up nonprofit. A workable model and an improved software program are now possible because of the findings Storm Eye documented in its testing and evaluation.”
In the validation study led by Rupal Trivedi, M.D., Storm Eye Ophthalmology, 72 children were evaluated using the innovative software. Unlike the traditional eye chart, VisionQuest (VQ) 20/20 assigns its visual acuity charts at random. This reduction of familiarity provides a more accurate assessment of vision. Patches and goggles also were tested against each other to determine which accessory fared better in screening with the patch receiving better results.
“As compared to other screening methods, VQ is simple and easy to use by anyone with minimum training,” stated Trivedi. “It can also test stereopsis and is good for an epidemiological study, since data is collected electronically. There are no requirements for expensive instruments, because it can be done on any school computer; an available resource in schools.”
Since there are no financial ties to the entrepreneur, Storm Eye recommend-ations to O’Neil and AFA are unbiased. The software is a step in the right direction for vision screening; however, a few issues still need to be resolved, such as snags in access and firewalls.
VisionQuest’s beta phase study in South Carolina examined screening results of more than 2,700 children attending 74 schools in the state, including Charleston County. The schools were given the VisionQuest software, auxiliary supplies and technical support to complete the testing. The study confirmed the software’s effectiveness, scrutinized side effects, and compared it to existing vision-screening methods. The collected information will enable AFA to use the software efficiently in the future. 

Nov. 14, 2008

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.