How Lucid Reality Labs and Roche Raise Awareness for Macular Disease with Varjo Mixed Reality
Macular disease is a common eye disorder affecting millions of people around the world, but there is a significant lack of public awareness and research funding on the disease.
To tackle this issue, Lucid Reality Labs and Roche built a mixed reality experience that allows users to see first-hand how the medical condition affects the patients’ vision.
Macular Disease impacts millions but lacks public awareness
Macular disease, or macular degeneration, is a medical condition affecting around 1.5 million people of all ages in the UK alone. It results in blurred or no vision in the center of the visual field. Early on there are often no symptoms but over time patients experience a gradual worsening of vision that may affect one or both eyes. While it does not result in complete blindness, loss of central vision can make it hard to recognize faces, drive, read, or perform other activities of daily life.
While preventative measures such as treatments, exercising and eating well can be taken, there is currently no cure or treatment that returns vision that has already been lost. Unfortunately, as the phenomenon is poorly understood and can’t be observed with the naked eye, timely diagnostics and treatment may slow down the disease and diminish the severity of vision loss.
How mixed reality enables increased awareness of the disease
This lack of awareness and research funding led Roche to search for ways to attract more attention to the cause. They were looking for an innovative way to communicate the cause and turned to Lucid Reality Labs in order to build a mixed reality experience where people can experience how macular disease affects one’s vision.
The goal of the project was to bring attention to and raise awareness of macular disease, especially among decision-makers, to facilitate National Health Service (NHS) funding aimed at macular disease early stage prevention, awareness and treatment.
The XR experience uses a headset, allowing the user to first see the real world in perfect visual clarity. An overlay is then created on top of the real world that simulates macular disease symptoms, partially blocking the person’s visual field. This allows the person wearing the headset to safely experience first-hand what everyday life with the disease would be like, enabling them to understand how even the simplest tasks can become a challenge if suffering from this condition.
XR enables many research and medical use cases
By enabling the seamless blending of real and digital worlds, mixed reality also allows changing and observing the reality the user sees. This allows, for example, the simulation of medical conditions affecting a person’s vision in complete safety. It can also have other applications such as phobia research or behavioral studies.
Mixed reality solutions providing cost savings and practicality in research
With Varjo’s mixed reality solutions, research professionals can easily create any true-to-life environment for advanced clinical, academic, or commercial studies. They allow recreating the exact feeling and conditions of real-world studies, which enables researchers to gain meaningful behavioral insights – without the impracticalities and high costs of real-world studies.
Varjo headsets also feature high-accuracy eye tracking, and data from it can be combined with biometric data from another platform to measure human behavior and cognitive load to give researchers insights into human behavior that have not been possible before.
XR research is rapidly starting to gather momentum, with numerous studies being published every year. While we are still in the early stages of research using virtual and mixed reality, we will see an increasing rate of adoption in the future as the technology has now advanced to a point where real-world applications can be achieved in a meaningful way.
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