Games Help Visually-Impaired Kids Improve Peripheral Vision

Can a devotion to vertical arcade games have a real-life physical benefit? In some cases, the answer is yes, especially when the video game is designed to address a specific problem, such as impaired vision. The University of Rochester’s Center for Visual Science is developing games that directly help improve vision, specifically, peripheral vision. So far, the results have been astounding.

Visual Impairments Affect Peripheral Vision

When children have a severe visual impairment, they expend most of their energy trying to focus on objects straight ahead of them. In the process, they neglect to use their peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is important for mobility and perception and can improve overall visual perception when utilized. The problem? The 24 children included in the study had severe central visual acuity deficiencies, so much so that they were diagnosed as legally blind, but they were also underutilizing their peripheral vision.

According to researchers, training these children to pay more attention to their peripheral vision could improve their overall visual acuity. The training wouldn’t cure the actual physical deficiency, but it would cause their brains to use another area of vision to their benefit, an area that was previously neglected.

The Training

The children were split into three groups. The control group played a game similar to Tetris. The second group played Ratchet & Clank, a commercially-available game. The third group played the game developed by researchers. Each group played the game on a large projection screen for eight hours total.

The training game involved the challenge of tracking moving objects and quickly identifying and reacting to additional moving objects that appeared on the screen. The player is forced to expand their visual field to keep watch over the farther reaches of the screen.

Post-training testing revealed that the second and third group showed major improvements in the use of their peripheral vision. They could spot items in a group much faster. Better yet, the visual improvements remained intact when the children were tested again a few years later. So video game technology continues to help improve lives in profound ways – that’s a win.