EDMONTON, Alberta–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Eye Institute of Alberta held their second annual Eye Ball Gala on Saturday, September 28 at the Westin Hotel, generating awareness and support for research into ocular degenerative disorders. Ophthalmic specialists, surgeons, as well as business and community leaders attended the gala.
Dr. Karim Damji, chair of the University of Alberta’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and lead ophthalmologist with the Eye Institute of Alberta partnered with Edmonton-based Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) developers, KOVR, to develop specific VR technology for the event. This was possible through generous grant funding from the Odd Fellow Rebekah Research Foundation of Alberta. The partners used the Through the Looking Glass event theme based on the Lewis Carroll classic to create an immersive experience simulating the effects of eye conditions that, if left untreated, can lead to vision loss. In total, approximately 250 people attended the gala and approximately 125 guests explored Wonderland in KOVR’s virtual experience.
“The Alice in Wonderland theme relates to the notion of altered perceptions,” said Robert Lennon, president and creative director, KO Group Ltd. He explained that users in the virtual experience explore Wonderland and complete tasks while simulating different ocular degenerative diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and inherited retinal conditions. “We consulted with the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences about each of the conditions and patterns of vision loss we wanted to feature. Though it’s subjective to each patient, what we created is a reasonably accurate representation of what it’s like to live with these conditions.”
Researchers, doctors, technicians and patients were all consulted through the VR program’s development, along with critical review demonstrations with a large group of medical students at the University of Alberta. According to Damji, the partnership with KOVR on the Through the Looking Glass virtual experience provides the opportunity for more people to gain a better understanding of and empathy for what it means to live with vision loss.
“In speaking with our patients and having them try the simulations for themselves, they were able to provide us the kind of feedback that helped us to create a realistic depiction of how serious diseases can cause various patterns of vision loss,” said Damji. “This helps bring to life the actual reality of what it is like to live with one of these diseases, as it’s not only patients’ eyesight that’s affected but also the impact this can have on their loved ones.”
Damji said relatives of those affected may also be at increased risk and need to ensure they have an annual eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. He hopes the technology will prompt more people to get annual eye examinations so that conditions can be detected early and preventative or restorative treatment offered.
About the Eye Institute of Alberta
The Eye Institute of Alberta (EIA) is a centre of excellence for all levels of ophthalmic care and serves a population of over 3 million people around Edmonton and in the North. The hub of the EIA is the Royal Alexandra Hospital with additional sites at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, WestView Health Centre, the Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital and the Katz building at the University of Alberta.
About the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
The Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences consists of over 40 ophthalmologists who work as physicians and surgeons and who have teaching appointments with the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. Many conduct innovative research that has a direct impact on improving patient care.
KO Group is one of Canada’s premiere creative and commercial broadcast production houses. Based in Edmonton, AB, KO Group produces hundreds of television commercials each year, as well as corporate and marketing videos, 3D animation and web content. KO Group’s VR and AR technology division, KOVR, is developing groundbreaking sales, marketing and training applications for many industries.