Gaming the Visual System in S3D


Thanks to my friend and colleague, Dr. Bob Sanet, for sharing this article on the new wave of computer games being used to develop or enhance binocular vision.  It is a very good overview of the pioneering efforts of Robert Hess, Dennis Levi, and James Blaha, with a nod to Sue Barry.

Ironically these games take us back in time to the principles of the Synoptophore.


Synoptophore Plates

Hess and colleagues noted in their 2011 article that the current S3D gaming model has a long history stemming from when the major amblyoscope or synoptophore was in use.  The device is still available overseas and features auto or manual flashing of either right or left images to break suppression, or variable illumination of right and left images to aid fusion.  Its optical tubes allowed for a variable range of between 40 and 50 degrees of lateral fusion, 30 degrees of vertical range and 20 degrees of cyclo.  Hess and colleagues use variable contrast in their video game approach as opposed to variable illumination, and as comparatively old school the synoptophore approach may seem relative to video games or immersive S3D environments, it remains the prototype for understanding the dichoptic approach to fusion.

I was gratified that Hess and colleagues credited an article I wrote in 1981 on Electronic Games and Vision Therapy (their reference #15:  Press LJ. Electronic games and strabismus therapy. J Optom Vis Dev 1981;12:35-9) for having influenced their approach to amblyopia and strabismus training.  I extended this in a chapter I wrote as part of a series way back when the OEP papers were still mailed in large envelopes in the early ’80s – and that is still available in monograph form.

Press - OEP Monograph

The prototype for the gaming principle I used in practice to encourage binocular integration anaglyphically was “Big Bird’s Egg Catch”  used in the early 1980s with an Atari computer system.  Parenthetically the patient who I wrote about in that series, Scott Shansky, is now an accomplished occupational therapist in our local school system who tells me he still remembers using that system as a child.

There are those who tell me I’m starting to resemble George Santayana, if not Dr. Phil (I know, it’s the balding/moustache/nose/bags-under-the-eyes combo) — and my favorite Santayana saying is: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.


My personal mantra derived from this is that while it may not be healthy to dwell in the the past, it is equally unhealthy to overlook it.  In this instance it leads us to the notion that the most effective non-invasive therapy is going to be some combination of device-based binocular stimuli with real-world applications, which is where the Mosaic article is nudging us.


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