Two eye specialists are developing an iPad-based game that can check children’s sight at home, without youngsters having to attend medical appointments.

With support from CEMET (Centre of Excellence in Mobile and Emerging Technologies), Dr Stephanie Campbell and Dr Luke Anderson have established Vision Game Labs, based at the University of South Wales (USW).

The company is developing technology which will allow parents to monitor their children’s vision from home, helping to avoid what can be long visits to the hospital/optometerist.

Stephanie, who has a PhD in vision science and is an NHS optometrist, and Luke, a consultant eye surgeon at Cwm Taf University Health Board, came up with the idea for the app when analysing youngsters’ sight.

“Through testing children’s vision, I realised that they were being misdiagnosed because of their short attention span,” Stephanie said. “Watching how long that children could play on computer games, I turned to technology to help.”

The iPad game tests different aspects of vision, acuity (black on white), contrast (differentiation of greys), colour, and motion.

After the game is completed, parents can track their child’s vision and identify any decline. The results are also made available to a specialist to decide whether a further hospital appointment is needed. This can be done remotely if necessary.

“Different diseases affect different aspects of vision and by collecting the data and training our neural network we will be able to not only use this as a screening tool but as a way of inidicating the underlying cause of vision loss in the future,” Stephanie added. “It’s a particularly exciting development for us as eye specialists, because we can also use the app to collect vital information that can further improve the results – meaning that we won’t just have data from maybe 20 or 30 people, but up to thousands of subjects who are tested in their own homes.”

The app development is just the latest piece of research Luke has carried out. He previously worked with USW’s Centre of Excellence in Mobile Applications and Services (CEMAS) to design an app to teach trainee eye professionals how to identify sight-threatening diseases.

“The serious game Space Vision has the capability to revolutionise how vision is measured,” Luke added. “It should also be able to contribute huge efficiencies to the health service by allowing patients to be monitored at home; and to pick up eye problems earlier in life, enabling a healthier population of young children in Wales.”

Mark Griffiths, Co-Director of CEMET, said: “The technology that Stephanie and Luke are developing is exactly what CEMET is here to support. Small business often have great ideas, but they don’t have the expertise in emerging technologies needed to turn that inspiration into reality, and that’s what we provide here.

CEMET is based at USW, and has £4.2m of backing from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Government. Its purpose is to provide R&D support to SMEs in the Valleys, West and North Wales, and we’d love to hear from more business owners who think they could benefit from our help.”

This article first appeared in the 2018 State of the Relationship report, commissioned by Research England and compiled and published by NCUB.