Virtual reality check

Head-mounted displays using virtual reality are at the leading edge of research into visual field testing. Carina Bailey reports on developments.

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Relatively recent advances in virtual reality head-mounted displays (VR HMD), coupled with smartphone technology, are making VR HMD a serious contender in the quest for better methods of testing a patient’s visual field. With the potential to enable home-based tests for glaucoma, to measuring an astronaut’s visual field while in orbit, the sky could be the limit. 

Worldwide, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness. Dr Pádraig Mulholland, a lecturer at Ulster University and Principal Optometrist (Research) at Moorfields Eye Hospital, says it is the primary cause of irreversible blindness in developed nations, and warns that the disease is projected to become increasingly prevalent because of an ageing population in the UK.

Today, the “reference standard” for testing a patient’s visual field is the standard automated perimetry (SAP) test on the Humphrey visual field analyser (HFA). This method usually involves a computerised perimeter, a projection area, an embedded microcontroller, an input device for the operator, and a button for the patient (Tsapakis et al, 2017). 

Conventional methods of testing have been described as “built for physicians’ offices or hospitals”, and “bulky, heavy, and expensive” (Tsapakis et al, 2017).

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