In the past, when children's eyes go wandering, we have used a patch to force the lazy (known as amblyoptic) eye to work harder and strengthen its muscles up. However, an iPad game has been found that might do the work faster.
The action-oriented game, Dig Rush, was developed in collaboration with Dr Robert Hess from McGill University in Montreal and UbiSoft. The game mechanics are simple in this gold-digging game.
Using a finger, you move miners and their surroundings to dig and return gold to a cart as quickly as possible while avoiding obstacles (eg, fire, lava, and monsters). Up to 3 stars can be earned at the end of each of the 42 levels (maximum star count, 126). Levels progressively increase in difficulty. You can use gold to purchase more miners and digging tools, as well as to dig faster and carry more gold.
The 28 randomly assigned children in the clinical trial were asked to play the game for one hour a day, five days a week, over a two week period (ten hours total). During game play, the wore special glasses that separated the game elements seen by each eye. The game can only be completed using independent game components viewed in each eye, forcing the children to use both eyes.
"In just 2 weeks, visual acuity gain with binocular treatment was half that found with 6 months of patching, suggesting that binocular treatment may yield faster gains than patching," the researchers say, although they acknowledge that long term outcomes need to be investigated.
Amblyopia is the leading cause of monocular visual impairment in children.