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Computer games with superpower help children with amblyopia or lazy eyes

Published: 25 April 2024

Amblyopia affects about one in every 50 kids and is treatable with occlusion therapy or 'patching'. Patching involves covering the stronger eye for around 3 hours a day for 6 months. This forces the weaker eye to work harder. 

Children must stick to the treatment, and this often needs a lot of help from parents or carers. High demands on time and effort cause many families give up. This leads to the treatment failing for around half the children. 

According to Dr Jay Self, an eye specialist at the University of Southampton, wearing patches regularly is crucial for treating lazy eye. Success is limited for children over 8, and the process can be tedious and demanding. If left untreated, vision problems persist into adulthood.

Dr Jay Self explains the importance of consistent patch-wearing for treating lazy eye.

Creating games with advanced mathematics software

The University of Southampton worked with Nucleolus Software to develop special computer games to help children with lazy eye. Graduates from the University's Winchester School of Art created the games.

The software uses the smartphone camera to check if the player is wearing their eye patch correctly. If not, the game encourages them to adjust it so they can unlock new levels or earn rewards.

Professor Joerg Fliege, Professor of Operational Research, explains that the software uses advanced mathematics to detect if the patch is worn correctly. If it isn’t, the game prompts them to correct this by sending them encouraging messages. The goal is to make patching a more positive experience and increase its effectiveness.

We think motivating children in this way will help them to form a more positive association with their patch and ultimately, increase the effectiveness of their treatment.

Professor Joerg Fliege, Professor of Operational Research 

Gaming as a tool for positive change

Vanissa Wanick, a senior lecturer at Winchester School of Art, highlights the significance of prioritising children in gaming. 

We hope that by turning patching into a superpower in the games, it makes it more enjoyable and empowering for kids.
Senior Lecturer in Interaction Design

Our final app will have features for setting goals and providing autonomy to children and their parents. This aligns with Winchester School of Art's approach to gaming as a tool for positive change.