February 29, 2016

Meet Dr. Jen Simonson

Dr. Jen Simonson (OD, FCOVD) of Boulder (CO) has developed a comprehensive 3D vision testing tool for both in-clinic and home practice use that runs on the iPad. Working with Gerull Labs, Dr. Simonson developed the free OPTO app. OPTO is currently in limited use in the U.S., England, Spain, Belgium, Greece, Australia and New Zealand. OPTO uses anaglyph or side-by-side 3D to both diagnose and treat a variety of vision anomalies. 
Dr. Jen Simonson, OD, FCOVD
These vision anomalies can affect 5-15% of the population. These vision issues limit our quality of life, the learning success of students, or the career choices of adults, if not treated. Using the OPTO app, Simonson notes: “We can detect if you cannot see 3D; we can measure how small of 3D you can see”, adding “we can quickly see if you need a more comprehensive eye exam.” (Incidentally,  Dr. Simonson was well on her way to diagnosing me in minutes, discovering my own amblylopia with her iPad app, even though I had not shared my own vision issue problems with her.) From the answers provided by the patient using the app, Dr. Simonson can correctly identify which eyes are being used to see and if one eye is experiencing suppression. Dr. Simonson explains in lay terms: “In vision therapy, we work on tracking, focusing, and eye teaming (when both eyes align and look at the same place). We can change the size of the target to see how much is suppressed; and determine whether central or peripheral vision is being suppressed. Even if the patient is too young to read or cannot speak English, that patient can still touch or point”, Simonson beams.

By developing her app on a mobile device, Dr. Simonson effectively leaps over some of many hurdles faced in currently diagnosing and treating vision disorders. The app is easy to administer, get lots of good information quickly, and provides valid diagnostic testing that is fun for kids to do, at multiple ages. Vision testing isn’t like it used to be: with Opto, children can be presented with a magnificently rendered stereo 3D dog and asked to pet the nose of the dog. What the children does at that moment—and where they stroke the dog (or cat)—informs the doctor how much 3D these children can see, even if they cannot verbalize. Older children and adults can even use a stylus for certain advanced tests.

Making this diagnostic and treatment device work perfectly across many different devices is a long term goal for Dr. Simonson. For now, it is easier to use only the iPad for clinical testing accuracy. Although many of her medical colleagues already like what they see in Opto, Dr. Simonson has launched a lengthy clinical testing trial (health review boards require rigorous clinical testing). The clinical trials are called VIVID (Validation of iPad Vision Diagnostics) and are being conducted in collaboration with The Ohio State University. After clinical testing, the plan is to take the app nationwide. 

February 22, 2016

3D and Your Vision

When modern digital 3D first hit the large and small screen, folks shouted sharply about their visual discomfort: headaches, eye strain, soreness, and nausea seemed to rule the day. Although some of those problems were due to poor stereographic techniques, the seminal research from the American Optometric Association (AOA) laid most of these concerns to rest: discomfort or the inability to see digital 3D without pesky symptoms was not the fault of the technology, but rather, the peculiarities of our own vision.  The 3D experience was, in fact, a quick and inexpensive test for healthy binocular vision. If you could experience the richness of 3D, your eyes worked like they were supposed to. If not, an underlying vision issue had just been brought to your attention.

With this revelation, the myth that the 3D experience was “bad for your eyes” or “bad for children” rapidly dissolved. With the launch of the AOA research, schools of optometry and vision health professional associations launched an aggressive multi-year training effort to bring the medical community up to speed in the diagnosis and treatment of what has become known as the 3D vision syndrome. And you knew it wouldn’t be long until that same vision revolution hit mobile devices. In next week’s post, we will introduce the work of a leading optometrist/vision therapist who is moving rapidly to bring 3D vision testing to the iPad, with great success. With a surprising educational twist.

February 15, 2016

Previewing SXSWedu

During the last decade, the very best ideas in education and technology could be scouted by listening to a TED talk. Times have changed. Move over TED, because the annual SXSWedu phenomenon has rapidly outpaced the TED talk as the most innovative, fresh, and prognostic venue for envisioning the future of the education. This year, the SXSWedu®Conference & Festival will be held in Austin, Texas from March 7-10. SXSWedu is a part of the SouthbySouthwest family of conferences, fostering “innovation in learning by hosting a diverse and energetic community of stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds in education.”

Conference session analysis can give us particular insight. The biggest footprint in ed tech coming out of the 2016 SXSWedu conference appears to be stout arrival of the virtual reality meme. Here are the sessions now approved in the first wave of program announcements:

The session will showcase how VR experiences significantly enhance learning through various curricular disciplines. It also shows how VR is being used to address pedagogical challenges (such as building empathy with the other), through collaborations between teachers, students, researchers and entrepreneurs from different countries (Israel, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, USA). See this slide presentation.

Learning Through Virtual Reality Experiences.
In this workshop, Maya Georgieva (New York University) and Emory Craig (The College of New Rochelle) analyze how immersive wearable technology reshapes the teaching-learning environment and institutional culture, “raising fundamental questions about the shape of future media, narrative and storytelling.”

Virtual Exchange Meets Virtual Reality 
Students from Los Angeles were “dropped into” a virtual reality recreation to understand the realities of the Syrian crisis. They then connected these students with Syrian refugee youth in Amman, Jordan via virtual exchange. A most interesting mashup of old and new virtual technologies.

Using 360º Spherical Video as a Teaching Tool.
Bethanne Tobey and Mike Cuales, professors from North Carolina State University explore the use of 360º spherical video to better support lab-based and field-based instruction in online learning environments. This session is unique in that it demonstrates the use of virtual reality field-based simulation. See this video.

Augmented Reality: Engaging a Minecraft Generation
More in the augmented reality arena, this session will highlight the way educators and students are using augmented reality to comprehend learning complex concepts and retain information easier.

See2Achieve: Virtual Reality, Vision and Learning.
The only entry in the early learning category for virtual reality (all other topics focus on older students), this session features Dr. Jennifer Simonson of Boulder Valley Vision Therapy and Len Scrogan (that’s me!) from the University of Colorado-Denver. The crux of this presentation is that successful reading requires our eyes to track a line and focus on a word or letter—and our eyes must do those things together. Enter modern day virtual reality. 3D virtual reality experiences also require our eyes to track, focus, and team. This presentation shows how virtual reality is fostering unanticipated benefits for vision health and learning; and how new mobile 3D technology is being used to screen for and improve early childhood vision.
At the SXSWedu conference, 3D virtual reality is no doubt turning out to be a favored son. Even more interesting are the creative twists we are seeing for VR in the areas of online learning, virtual reality mashups, vision health, emotional intelligence, and the future of storytelling.

February 8, 2016

The 3D-printed Dancer

Here's a delightful video my wife introduced to me, a video with a 3D theme. Enjoy!

February 1, 2016

What's in a name?

As indicated in last week's post, clearly, the abbreviation ‘3D’ is currently disappearing from some digital product marketing schemes, and is being replaced with other substitute words. We now must surveil for code words like “immersive”, “VR”, or “mixed reality”, to name but a few. 3D Might be hiding there. You never know. The ways we now describe 3D visualization technologies are at the same time confusing, shifting, and converging. Let’s just say that conversations are never easy in this promethean field.

Part of the complication we face is that 3D has truly become a culturematic in modern society. In my lead-in quotation from last week's post, Juliet laments:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
Of course, what this means is: it matters what something is, not what it may be called. But in the education world, it sure makes it harder to hold conversations, build momentum, and do business around the notion of 3D.