Have you been hearing a lot about Virtual Reality lately? We have too.
Virtual reality is an exciting new technology for games and entertainment, but how about as a multi-functional diagnostic eye care device?
It is likely you have seen several companies urging you to consider the idea of “VR Perimetry”, visual fields performed with a Virtual Reality (VR) headset.
What is this all about and should you consider it?
The answer is….maybe.
There are a few types of VR headsets, led by the Oculus Quest 2 (shown below), a consumer device now owned by Facebook. If you still haven’t tried one, you should experience it. It is mostly used for games and entertainment, but it is easy to see how this technology can evolve into a multi-functional diagnostic eye care device.
However, there are limitations to the current technology.
Can it replace your current perimeter?
First, if you are using a conventional bowl perimeter such as the HFA, Octopus or Optopol and are looking to replace it with a newer one, this is not your new perimeter.
This is not a conventional perimeter and for you, look for the newer models of the aforementioned units.
However, if you are looking for a complementary device that allows you to test those with limited mobility, pediatrics or set up off-site screenings, VR may be a good fit.
The non-conventional part of the equation is that most of your patients that need visual fields have never experienced a VR device and at first, it is intimidating.
Despite the cost savings and mobility factor, having to force this learning curve with all your patients is probably not worth the benefit.
There are also limitations with the current technology.
Some of the devices do have eye tracking, but most do not provide a video eye monitor to allow the operator to witness alignment and fixation.
Of course, for the more complex testing such as kinetic, color, larger spot size for low vision, etc., you will need to use a conventional perimeter.
What is the cost for a Visual Field VR headset?
The pricing for these units ranges between $7,500.00 – $10,000.00. Reasonable, but the same or more than some smaller screening devices such as the Zeiss FDT, Oculus Easyfield, etc.
One might ask, if I can buy the latest Oculus Quest 2 for $299.00, why is a VR visual field priced at thousands more?
In the case of the Oculus Quest, one of the reasons is that Facebook wants their users to use the technology for games and cares about the broader consumer market. For this reason, they charge vendors who use the unit for specific niche applications a large premium in order to do this.
Which vendors sell VR based perimeters?
Back when we had in-person exhibits, there were more and more VR based perimeter providers at every meeting.
One reason for this is that there is a very low barrier to entry. The patent situation for VR based perimetry is murky and the technology is not difficult to develop, thus, several vendors.
Currently, there is no large eye care manufacturer offering VR perimetry, although the VisuALL VR perimeter from Olleyes is currently being distributed by Keeler, so we are hearing more about this product than the others lately.
Here’s the bottom line…
VR technology is very exciting and will lead to multi functional diagnostic devices for eye care professionals in the coming years.
The current units are great for screening the subset of patients that have a hard time with conventional perimeters and also give you a tool for remote screening if that makes sense to drive business to your practice.
However, for the time being, I would generally stick with the known vendors such as Zeiss, Haag Streit and Optopol when upgrading your current perimeter and reserve VR perimetry as a complementary screening device.