Parents worldwide may keep chiding their children for sitting too close to the TV while playing video games, claiming it'll ruin their vision. But researchers in the UK have figured out a way that bringing the screen closer to the kids can actually treat a common eye condition.
Lazy eye (amblyopia) is fairly common in children. One common treatment involves wearing an eyepatch, which can sometimes be difficult to make kids do. (When I was six, treatment involved crossing my eyes and staring at a pencil several times daily. The novelty wore off pretty fast.)
According to the BBC, 3-4% of children are diagnosed with amblyopia, in which the eyes don't focus equally well. Researchers designed special gaming goggles that feed different images to each eye. The lazy eye receives a clearer image than the "normal" eye, causing the nerves and muscles to work in response.
Children wear the goggles and play the game for an hour a day for a week or ten days. The gaming goggles result in an "almost immediate improvement." According to the BBC:
"By forcing, in a way, the child to use both eyes the brain becomes aware of the image in the lazy eye," said the project leader, Dr Anita Simmers.
"It's as if these cells, which were once dormant, have reactivated and regenerated."
The specialized goggles are still a research prototype, not widely available. Still, signs are favorable that using games in this way can help children participate in their own treatment. This also isn't the first time that video games have proven to have beneficial uses in vision care. Previous research has indicated games work well for diagnosing vision problems in children and for treating cataracts in older patients.