Scientists use VR to simulate glaucoma

City, University of London research has explored how head mounted displays can be used to illustrate the visual challenges faced by those with glaucoma

Man testing virtual reality headset
City, University of London/Crabb Lab

A new study by City, University of London scientists has investigated the potential of virtual and augmented reality to simulate the visual challenges faced by those with glaucoma.

The research, which was published in npj Digital Medicine, highlights that using head mounted displays to simulate sight loss could aid policymakers in better assessing the impact of visual impairment on patients.  

The technology could also be used by architects to design more accessible buildings.

As part of the study, 22 participants without glaucoma wore head mounted displays while performing a variety of tasks in virtual or augmented reality.

Sensors within the head mounted displays tracked the position of each participant’s eyes and generated a blurred area of vision that obstructed the same portion of their visual field wherever they looked.

Participants were slower to perform tasks when a simulated visual impairment was present.

Dr Peter Jones, from City, University of London’s Crabb Lab, highlighted that while it is impossible to exactly recreate what it is like to have glaucoma, digital simulators can allow people to experience some of the challenges that those living with the disease face.

“We are now working with architects to explore whether sight-loss simulators can be used to design more accessible buildings and transport systems,” he shared.