Thursday, October 10, 2013

My first 3D movie experience

Last night, I saw Gravity in Imax 3D.

I've tried seeing 3D movies before, with no results, but I thought I would try again in light of my recent experiences with small amounts of 3D vision.

Before the movie started, there was a little intro for Imax 3D. You know, showing the logo, making a deafening noise, things like that. At the end of the intro, the camera zoomed into the Imax logo. Suddenly I felt my eyes start to cross, and I got the sensation that something was going to hit me in the face. I immediately tore the 3D glasses off my face in a panic. I can't even remember what I actually saw; I just remember the feeling.

After that, I thought, 'Wow! This is going to be an exciting movie!' But then... it really wasn't. The actual movie seemed kind of flat. And sometimes, with the white-suited astronauts on the black background of space, there was a lot of ghosting. C'mon Imax, can't you figure out how to show 3D without ghosting?

About halfway through the movie, I remember that I still had the blurry stick-on eye patches in my front pocket. So I stuck those to my glasses, to make the movie a bit softer. That seemed to help.

Sometimes, when the camera would show the inside of a space shuttle, it seemed like I was looking through a window into a real room. It looked clearer and more real. It only happened when the camera showed a small crowded room, like a space shuttle... I don't know why. Maybe it had something to do with the presence of lines of perspective and other monocular depth cues, which might have helped me add some depth. Just a theory.

And at one point, there was a tool floating around the inside of the space shuttle. It started floating towards that camera and, like the Imax logo, I thought it was going to hit me in the face. I gripped the arm rests and forced myself to watch it come at my face and I actually saw it coming out at me. Hurray!

So that's what happened at the 3D movies - flat the majority of the time, but there was a scary Imax logo, realistic/weird looking views into a space shuttle, and the floating tool coming out to hit me in the face.

Also, it was a good movie!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Vision therapy works and it's contagious

I started working at my optometrist's office a couple of days a week, helping out with some IT / database stuff. I'm on the computer the majority of the time, and I know it doesn't sound that exciting, but it has been... awesome. Just being in proximity to the VT office has affected me so much.

First of all, in two weeks, I've already met... I think five... strabismic patients who are seeing / starting to see in stereo. One patient developed the ability to see random-dot stereograms after SIX WEEKS of vision therapy. From no depth to rand-dot in six weeks is unheard of. To make it even more amazing, this patient had an ophthalmologist tell her and her parents that she was incurable.

It's really heartening to see all these successes. Strabismus really IS curable through vision therapy. Stereo Sue isn't a fluke. I would get on my hands and knees and beg every parent out there to never, ever let an ophthalmologist operate on their child's eyes without trying vision therapy first.

Secondly, being in this vision therapy environment has started to change my own vision habits. Being around the optometrist, the vision therapist, the patients, the equipment, the employees... Hearing snippets of vision therapy in action... "is it double or single?", "keep your head straight!"... It's all starting to make me more conscious of my eyes and my posture. I kind of feel like a hypocrite, walking around the office while letting my eye wander out and standing at weird off-center angles while talking to people. I feel like, since all the patients are trying to keep their eyes straight and their posture correct, then I should too. I should set a good example, right? So I've been trying to keep my eyes and face centered on what I'm looking at, at least when I'm in the VT office...
And then yesterday, something happened... I was having a conversation with a guy at the office and trying to be conscious to point both of my eyes at him. Suddenly I started to feel sick to my stomach. The hand that he was gesturing with looked weird. Kind of... more in front of his body than usual. His nose was looking weird, too. Extra triangular. It all just looked weird in a subtle way and it felt like I was getting punched in the gut.

I think I was starting to see in 3D a little bit...

I kept this information to myself for the day. I didn't want to claim that something happened if I was really just imagining it...

But then, while driving down the highway the past couple days, I would practice bringing my eyes together... And sometimes things looked "weird" again. The autumn trees were... bushier... clumpier... But only sometimes. And I thought to myself, well maybe I'm just paying attention to trees more. Maybe I'm imagining it and trees have always looked like that...

Full of strabismic doubt....

But then I started to thinking - I've seen so many successes at work. What if I just decide to believe myself? What if I just believe that it is possible? What if I just believe what I see? I've seen so many successes lately - why can't I be one of them?

So during my lunch break, I shared what I was experiencing with the vision therapist. "You're starting to see it, aren't you?" she said. We went over to the big flat screen TV, put on the shutter glasses, and started up some VT software.

(Actually I was wearing something extra besides the LCD shutter glasses and my prescription glasses. I remembered that I saw some depth once while wearing blurry contacts, so I tried to do something similar but less messy. I used those translucent plastic blurry eye patches that stick directly to your glasses - I put them on both lenses of my own glasses. Voila - blurry, soft vision.)

As the program started up, I mentally told myself "Stop doubting everything you see. Believe your eyes. Believe that you saw some depth in the clumpy trees and that guy's triangle-beak nose. Keep everything soft and relaxed and trust your eyes."

We started with the picture of the big rings that most people in vision therapy are familiar with (quoits):

I stuck my arm up to the monitor, putting my hand right in the center of the ring... And, weirdly, it FELT like my arm was going through a hole in the TV screen. When touching the center of the TV, the ring seemed to be at the level of my forearm. It wasn't "floating" or "popping out" really... Yet... somehow the ring was at the middle of my arm and my arm was going deep into the TV. It even seemed like it was possible for me to put my hand in through the hole and go behind the ring.


Then we switched to a 3D picture full of sea animals. And some fish were clearly closer than other fish! I could answer most of the questions correctly. And once, when I manipulated the pictures so that I was converging A LOT, one of the fish REALLY jumped out for a second. But just a second.

Then lunch was over and a patient came in and it was time for me to get back to working on the database. And all this eye stuff was kind of giving me a headache... The end.

I'm still mentally processing what happened today... I really did see in 3D... I'm coming to believe that doubt, mistrust, and negativity are a big hindrance to succeeding in vision therapy. Sometimes you just have to trust what your eyes are showing you. Stop discounting the positive.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Concerns of adult strabismics

I've been talking online with a lot of adults strabismics, and I've observed that there a few particular concerns and topics of discussion that come up quite often. They are:
  • Are strabismics really able to gain stereovision through vision therapy? Or is it limited to very, very rare cases?
  • Do alternating suppressors have an easier time gaining stereovision than constant, one-eye suppressors?
  • Do strabismics undergoing vision therapy commonly develop permanent double vision?
In my limited experience observing other strabismics that come through the vision therapy office, I had my doubts about these questions. I've seen many strabby children start vision therapy, gain stereovision, graduate vision therapy, and leave. I've never noticed or heard of a difference between alternating suppressors and constant suppressors. And I've never seen anyone end up with permanent double vision. But again, my experience is very limited.

So yesterday I decided to ask my vision therapist for her thoughts. She's been doing vision therapy for 11 years (and also works 50+ hours per week), so I figure she has a lot of experience to draw upon.

Here are her responses to my questions. (Note: These responses are paraphrased and from my memory.)
  • Are strabismics really able to gain stereovision through vision therapy? Or is it limited to very, very rare cases?
When I asked her this question, she pulled out her iPhone and showed me some before and after pictures of several young patients (and one adult). They were patients who came in with strabismus and eye turns, very clearly visible in the pictures. And in the "after" pictures, they had perfectly straight, lovely eyes. She told me that she could think of the names of 10 patients off the top of her head who had fixed their strabismus and gained stereovision.

She said that the majority of success stories were children with no history of eye surgery. She also said that she didn't measure the success of vision therapy only by stereovision. Even the people who don't gain full stereovision are helped greatly - they don't have double vision anymore, they can read and drive again, they can study again, they can get good grades again, they can see again.

  • Do alternating suppressors have an easier time gaining stereovision than constant, one-eye suppressors?
She said that, from her perspective, she prefers to work with constant suppressors. Alternating suppressors are "professional switchers" - they focus on "getting the right answer" rather than using both eyes together to accomplish a vision therapy task. Basically, they cheat! She has to avoid certain vision therapy exercises with alternators, since they just switch their eyes back and forth until they figure out a way to cheat. She viewed alternating suppression as a hindrance to vision therapy. Alternating suppressors are always foiling her plans and thinking up smart ways to cheat on VT exercises.

She then remembered off the top of her head a recent constant suppressor / deep amblyope patient who had just gained stereovision.

  •  Do strabismics undergoing vision therapy commonly develop permanent double vision?
She said that patients sometimes experience double vision during vision therapy when both of their eyes "turn on", but that's just part of the process and goes away later when both eyes are pointed in the same place. In 11 years of being a vision therapist, she has never seen anyone walk away from vision therapy with permanent double vision.