Mobile phone app created to help children overcome lazy eye

Medics have joined up with mathematicians and designers to create an app to encourage children to build a positive relationship with their eye patch.

Ben Mitchell
Tuesday 30 May 2023 10:21 BST
Designer Nicoleta Ogledean showing the eye patch can control characters in the games (University of Southampton/PA)
Designer Nicoleta Ogledean showing the eye patch can control characters in the games (University of Southampton/PA)

A mobile phone app has been created by eye specialists to encourage children with “lazy eye” to wear a patch that helps correct the condition and ensure it is being used properly.

About one in 50 children are affected by the visual impairment amblyopia, which can usually be treated through patching therapy.

This involves the child wearing a patch over the unaffected eye – normally for three hours a day for six months – to force the “lazy” eye to work.

But the success rate is only 50% as children often struggle to wear the patch properly with many busy households giving up on the treatment.

Now medics at the University of Southampton have joined up with mathematicians and game designers to create an app to encourage children to build a positive association with their eye patch and wear it more often.

The phone app consists of several different computer games designed by graduates of the University of Southampton’s Winchester School of Art working at Nucleolus Software, a company formed for the project.

Through complex programming, it also uses the smart phone’s camera to check if the person playing is wearing their patch correctly and encourages them to do so within the game.

A prototype of the app, called The Amblios Club, is now available for Android devices on the Google Play Store and is hoped to be available for iPhone devices in the coming months.

In the games, children play with Bambu the panda and his robot friend Bob who both live in a nature reserve. They encounter other animals out in the wild and help Bob in the upkeep of the reserve and in recycling waste.

Dr Jay Self, associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Southampton, and consultant at University Hospital Southampton (UHS), explains: “Consistency in wearing an eye patch is essential for treating amblyopia.

“The technique works, but there’s a short window of time for treatment, as it has very limited success after the age of eight.

“It requires a huge time investment and perseverance and is not much fun at all. Sadly, it’s easy to give up.

“Preliminary evidence suggests that the development of immersive smartphone, tablet and computer games could offer an effective solution by making the child want to wear the patch for the first time.

“This can increase the effectiveness of occlusion therapy and importantly, help relieve some of the pressure on parents to implement the treatment.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in