Thursday, June 13, 2013

A nice chat with Robert

I had a nice chat With Robert Connoy a few days ago and I wanted to relay some of the salient points of our discussion.

He's another example of how individual this strabismus/stereoblindness problem can be.  He's a 42 year old IT man who had strabismus all his life.  He was terrible as sports like me as a result of his bad vision.  He mentioned that he had at least one surgery, but I think it was later in life, I forget when.  In April of last year when he was in Berkeley California, he contracted the help of the university to develop stereopsis.

It sounds like it was a good experience, as I understand it.  He said that these people really knew what they were doing, and it only cost $60 per session because they were students.  The vision therapy techniques they employed were very 'textbook Bernell' (as Robert put it); that is, working with stereoscopes, sliding/stationary tranaglyphs, stereograms, anything that you would be able to buy from the Bernell website.  Despite the orthodoxy, the exercises were effective and they were impressed with the speed of Robert's progress.  He was quickly able to increase his divergence with sliding tranaglyphs, and was able to perceive layers of depth with crossed 3d images.  He does seem to have the equipment, it's just a matter of keeping it stable and available at all times.

After four months, he had to stop working with the university because his job moved to Minnesota.  He said that he may contract the help of a vision therapist in the area and then continue hitting the vision therapy sessions hard.  One of his prime motivators is that he wants to have his equipment work as intended.  I couldn't agree with him more.  It's this sense that we're missing out on a lot.  It bothers the hell out of me.  I remember being a kid with my brothers looking at one of those 3d image viewers and they were amazed by it.  Then I looked into it and I said 'What the hell?  What's so great about this this?'  And all of those years of sucking at sports.  And the way that Susan Barry describes looking at falling snow and looking through trees.  I'm just glad that because of science we finally have a chance of rectifying it.

I expressed that I'm optimistic for him.  He's able to fuse.  He's got a solid starting point.  Now it's just a matter of making the fusion robust and a permanent feature of his vision.  I brought up one of the salient things that Fred Brock said about vision therapy exercises.  The exercises should be in the Goldilocks zone: not too hard and not too easy.  You want to find the catching point, and then build on it.  This is sort of like an exercise that my brother had me do when I was learning how to drive with a manual transmission.  He would have me at a standstill, put the car in first gear, and then without using the gas pedal at all, pull out the clutch so that you find the point at which it engages the transmission.  Then he would have me stay there, and become familiar with the catching point, and then slowly experiment with seeing how applying gas changes the outcome.  Once I became comfortable and familiar with that catching point and starting the car from a standstill, switching the other gears was cake.

I try to do something similar with my vision therapy exercises.  It's one of the reasons that I play video games in 3d with my nVidia 3d Vision system.  First of all, it allows me to enjoy the fruit of my work.  I do get a decent 3d effect, even though it's nowhere near where it's eventually going to be.  And the other reason is that it engages my binocular depth neurons.  For some reason the artificial 3d effects seem to be more pronounced to me than looking at the world around me in real life.  This, in fact, jives with some of the things that I'd heard about with other people spontaneously developing stereopsis later in life.  I remember reading about stereopsis suddenly popping in as a result of watching 3d movies (this was recent--a 60 year old university professor) or a guy who specialized in working with 3d animation.  There's something about the engineering involved with these artificial stereoscopic effects that engages the binocular depth neurons in particular.  Using this as a catching point might be useful.  Robert expressed interest in the nVidia 3d Vision system.

I also suggested that saccades might be a good thing to try out as well in order to increase the speed and accuracy of his eyes.  He suggested that I do the crossed 3d images.  I think I'm going to give that a try, along with the sliding tranaglyphs.  My divergence isn't as great as it used to be.  Those should sort that out rather quickly.

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