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18 Aug, Thursday
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Montreal Families

Could a video game help treat lazy eye?

In the not-so-distant future, people suffering from Amblyopia – otherwise known as lazy eye – may be getting a doctor’s prescription…for video games. Montreal-based video gaming giant Ubisoft, better known for creating violent blockbuster games such as Assassin’s Creed, is teaming up with Atlanta-based Amblyotech to create Dig Rush, a game designed specifically to treat lazy eye.

Lazy eye is a condition characterized by poor vision in an eye that otherwise appears normal but does not operate in conjunction with the other eye. Traditional treatments have included wearing an eye patch, using atropine drops or surgery. The pain and social stigma of these treatments have made people avoid them, according to Amblyotech, and made lazy eye a leading cause of adult blindness.

The goal of Dig Rush is to get the two eyes to work together in a therapy that will “create a more engaging and enjoyable experience for patients,” say Ubisoft senior producer Mathieu Ferland.  And, unlike many traditional therapies, it is effective for both children and adults.

The game, which is played on a tablet, requires the patient to wear red/blue 3D glasses while playing a simulated gold-mining game. The different-coloured lenses send different images to each eye, forcing the patient to use both eyes together in order to play, says Ubisoft spokesman Fabrice Giguere.

For Ubisoft, it is the first game developed exclusively for therapeutic purposes. The group plans to seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance to market the game in the United States before trying to get approval in other countries, including Canada. Giguere estimates that the game, which will be available only with a doctor’s prescription, will hit the market in less than two years.

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