Mitchell Scheiman, OD, PhD director of Graduate Programs in Biomedicine and his colleague Tara Alvarez, OD, professor of Biomedical Engineering and director of the Vision and Neural Engineering Lab at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), along with Chang Yarmothu, PhD and John Vito d’Antonio-Bertagnolli, MS, - recently won two of three prestigious breakthrough Auggie Awards - the most recognized industry virtual reality awards in the world. Winners were announced and honored at Augmented World Expo (AWE) Eurpoe (EU) 2018 Conference and Expo on October 19 in Munich, Germany.

Auggie Award winners
Photo Credit: AWE Facebook
 
The team, who are the founding executives of OculoMotor Technologies (OMT), a medical device company started at NJIT, achieved the following awards for their submission - Virtual Reality Vision Therapy VERVE (Virtual Eye Rotation Vision):
 
  • Excellence in collaborative projects between industry and academia
  • Most impactful breakthrough and honoring a woman X-Reality (XR) Laureate
 
Additional stakeholders of the project included Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), New Jersey Health Foundation, and the National Science Foundation I-Corps.
 
The group studied convergence insufficiency, which is present in 12 to 24 million people in the United States alone. After a concussion, one out of two children has convergence insufficiency. This condition has a negative impact on reading, use of computers, smartphones and tablets, but with vision therapy, symptoms can be remediated.
 
It is the team’s hope to bring the latest technological advances to optometrists and vision therapists, enabling them to provide improved clinical outcomes and engaging therapeutic experiences to patients with binocular vision disorders by addressing outdated therapies with new virtual reality games that give an enhanced experience to the therapies currently being used. They also hope to use sophisticated instrumentation, including brain scans, to fully understand what’s going on in the brain and possibly products such as virtual reality headsets with portable laptops to assess problems by looking at specific types of eye movements.
 
Winners - Auggie Awards“While I’ve accumulated a wealth of scientific knowledge, and that’s very important in terms of our growth as a society, if you really want to make an impact, you have to learn how to translate that science out of the journal papers and out of the lab into society, and make your knowledge something that will have an impact,” said Dr. Alvarez.
 
Adding these two awards to the project only makes the team more excited to continue progress. They are still in the process of completing initial product testing, and plan on running a series of clinical studies, which are anticipated to begin at the end of 2019.
 
“I think the most important message [about winning the Auggies] is that this is a demonstration of how collaboration between engineering and optometry helps develop translational research,” Dr. Scheiman said.  “When clinicians and engineers work together in a collaborative manner it helps develop products that enhance clinical diagnosis and treatment.”

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