Virtual reality and augmented experiences have revolutionized entertainment and gaming industries. Now, Halifax entrepreneur Ryan Cameron is working on bringing this technology to a clinical setting.
His company Electric Puppets uses VR and eye-tracking technology to improve on the basic tests patients take when they visit the eye doctor.
“In current cases, they’re using tests that are over 100 years old," Cameron said in an interview. "It’s a combination of lenses, physical equipment, dials and whatnot.”
Electric Puppet’s system, called Evrisia, uses VR to simulate two standardized eye tests – the Bagolini striated lens test and the Worth 4-dot test. They examine a patient's binocular functions, meaning, they look at how the eyes work together.
Using the Evrisia system, patients wear the same device that goes over a player's eyes in VR gaming. Depending on the settings used, patients can be transported to a virtual room with leather chairs and a carpet, a cartoon jungle, or the middle of a lake. Patients are then shown different objects and illusions and are asked to describe what they see while the system tracks and records data about their eye movements.
He said earlier generations of VR would have produced images more slowly than the eye can see, creating a disorientating and often nauseating experience. Now, developers have found a way for the tech to track the user’s fovea, a part of the eye behind the pupil with the highest concentration of rods, and rapidly generate video from those specific movements.
“So the theory is, if you can track a person's eye movement with enough precision, you can send their eye movement to the video card and the video card would render, with great precision, just the bit you are looking directly at,” said Cameron.
Electric Puppets is harnessing this high-precision eye-tracking tech to better understand ophthalmology.
“We’re still contemplating whether or not this is a valid research tool,” said Cameron. “For now, we’re just collecting data that has never been collected before.”
The company has received investments of $87,000. It is operating out of Innovacorp’s Summer Street offices and won $50,000 in last year's Innovacorp Spark Innovation Challenge.
Cameron plans to use another of his ventures to get the Evrisia system to market. He is the CTO of Unified Health, which helps people create customizable healthcare solutions. This company is setting up wellness clinics that merge traditional and alternative care practices.
Cameron said he plans to test the efficacy of VR as a tool in these clinics. He’s also working with the Children’s Centre for Pain Research, in Halifax, as an early adopter to test more applications of VR in the medical space.
“We’re in preliminary talks to use VR for therapy to work with kids and help pain,” he said.