A virtual reality app lets users experience condition

A virtual reality simulator could change the way people who care for those with an eye complaint view the condition.

Wednesday, 22nd March 2017, 5:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:53 am

The mobile phone simulator, funded by Sheffield Hospitals Charity, can replicate the rare eye condition ‘nystagmus,’ which causes a person’s eyes to move involuntarily.

It is hoped the simulator will allow non-sufferers to understand what it’s like to live with the world constantly moving around them.

Sheffield mum Rainy Hutchinson, who lives in Ecclesall with her teenage son Miles, who lives with nystagmus, said: “Miles’ symptoms vary in intensity, from mild to severe. It’s always worse if he is tired or upset and at these times his eyes ‘wobble’ rapidly from side to side.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“We know that nystagmus affects Miles’ vision, but we don’t know to what extent, as he has Down’s Syndrome which impacts his ability to talk in sentences. It became most apparent when he was a toddler and first able to walk. When he got tired, upset or scared, he would lie down on the ground and refuse to get up. Initially we thought it was a tantrum of some sort, but then we’d see how dramatically his eyes were shaking and understand that he probably couldn’t see.

“Miles is now fourteen, and has developed coping strategies. When I was given the opportunity to experience what Miles sees and feels, I said yes straight away. It was very disorientating and made me feel nauseous, so I was glad to be able to switch it off after a time - which I’m sure oscillopsia sufferers would love to be able to do themselves, but can’t.

“A picture paints a thousand words. It would be a helpful tool for staff training at Miles’ school as the teachers and assistants could gain a much better understanding of the problem in a much shorter space of time.”

Sheffield Hospitals Charity supports many ground-breaking research projects, like this, that help local patients. The app, which has been produced by David Randall, in the departments of Medical Physics and Ophthalmology and Orthoptics at the University of Sheffield, uses eye movement recordings from real people with nystagmus and replicates the eye movements within virtual reality, creating an accurate representation of the debilitating effects of oscillopsia.

Visit www.sheffieldhospitalscharity.org.uk for details on the app.