3D video game helps kids with vision screening

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Too much screen time is often seen as a negative thing, especially for kids. But one eye clinic is finding a way to make eye exams more fun and efficient through a video game kids love.

Dr. Bob Arnold has been helping kids in Alaska see more clearly since 1989.

Kids can't help but smile around Dr. Arnold with his upbeat personality. But even bigger than his personality is the way he is changing the game for eye exams, with the help of fun tools and technology.

As a pediatric ophthalmologist, his main passion is catching lazy eye, or amblyopia, early in children.

"It's hard if you catch it late, and the eyes are misaligned and the brain is very bad," Arnold told KTUU. "Then we have to patch the good eye a lot to try and get a little bit of vision back in the bad eye."

Arnold can use standard ophthalmology tools to screen for lazy eye, but now he has found a way to get the same job done with a Nintendo 3DS.

"The right eye sees one set of pixels, and the left eye, from a different angle, sees a different set of pixels," he said.

Arnold, along with optometrist Kyle Smith and a video game programmer, created PDI Check to test kids' vision in a new way.

"We can do fast and fun testing of vision," Arnold said. "And the things that are hard to do, patching one or the other eye or putting the goggles on, the 3DS screen sort of bypasses the need for that, and the patient doesn't even realize it's testing the right or left eye."

Because the top screen of the device is three-dimensional, the eye screening can be done in less time.

"Really what we're watching with children in their vision development is both eyes need to be working well together," said Smith. "Both eyes need to have equal vision for the brain to develop normal vision between the two eyes."

Arnold says kids can start photoscreening at age one.

"Alaska is a beautiful state and we think kids in Alaska should see clearly," said Arnold.

If you're interested in PDI Check, you can ask your eye doctor if they would purchase a Nintendo 3DS and the game to use. It is the most expensive game Nintendo offers, but Arnold claims it ends up being less than all the other tools typically used in an eye doctor's office.