Starting out in the sports tech sector, the company is pushing into new medical applications
Eye-tracking technology is all the rage for virtual reality applications now, but it also has a wide range of medical applications that predate it in this field. It can be used to test for response times and look for symptoms, ranging from simple concussions to Alzheimer’s disease, and even diabetes.
RightEye, a company that uses eye trackers linked to 3D monitors, has developed a comprehensive platform to help interested physicians and trainers. This year, it will expand that platform to help treat children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and administer reading tests to look for dyslexia.
It’s also expanding its original business, in sports reflex and injury testing, by committing to the Prospect Development Pipeline used to evaluate professional baseball players’ performance.
For decades, researchers have explored how eye movements can telegraph patients’ neurological and psychology ailments: “RightEye is helping to bring that research out of the lab and into the hands of healthcare providers,” Barbara Barclay, President of RightEye, tells Geektime. This includes a new Parkinson’s disease test coming out in the spring that has been developed through Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as the aforementioned work with children.
The company’s foray into ADS research, the GeoPref Autism Test for children aged 12-40 months that will come out in 2017, is the result of years of research by Dr. Karen Pierce of the Autism Center for Excellence at the University of California, San Diego. Her work shows that babies with autism are predisposed to track geometric patterns in their field of vision, something babies who don’t have autism are less likely to do as they focus instead on faces in the line of sight.
Reviewing several studies done on the technology, Science Alert reported earlier this year that if the technology can be perfected, “alternative ways of detecting ASD that are less subjective, effective at an earlier stage, and also useful in measuring the severity of the autism.” RightEye wants to use this research help streamline treatments for people with brain injuries that require extensive rehabilitation to be able to see normally again by training their eyes.
According to the company, the primary advantage of using this technology is that it cuts down on “the very subjective manual examination” process that has been the norm, a process that is also not all that fast because of the need to observe a patient’s eye movements over time. In contrast, RightEye’s Neuro Vision test takes only 15 seconds to run. It, and other tests, can also be run from handheld devices, making them a lot more portable than older machines. Barclay notes that the porting of the software to “small, lightweight peripherals that work on desktops and laptops” helps “make broader mass market access to this equipment even more feasible.”
It’s even possible to use video games on the system to run eye tracking tests.
In addition to private practices, vision therapy clinics, emergency rooms, optometrists, and health systems, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, RightEye also works with sports teams to help them train and evaluate players. Major League Baseball (MLB) for one is very interested in being able to quantify its players reflex times. (So too, of course, is the US military.)
USA Baseball’s Rick Riccobono says that, “These are sport performance areas that can be enhanced through training, and will give athletes important insights about reaching their maximum potential.”
Beyond this, the pro sports community is in general looking to improve the methods it uses to treat concussions, which have reached epidemic proportions according to the AFP.
Sports is where RightEye got started, in fact. Its CTO, Dr. Melissa Hunfalvay, is an avid tennis player and has a doctorate in Sports Psychology, and, “she used this knowledge to assess players’ eye movements at critical moments and how they related to success.”
“Most concussions are assessed using a subjective test that monitors eye movement by moving fingers in a circular, horizontal and vertical movement in front of a patients’ face,” Barclay says, and they “take the basic premise behind that test, but make it objective and quantifiable, allowing for more accurate assessment of injury and monitoring for recovery.”
“We think eye-tracking tests have the potential to become as critical to holistic patient care as blood tests,” says Barclay, and adds that “we plan to continue to expand our platform by adding more tests and training games to fulfill that vision.”
RightEye has raised $4 million from angel investors, and will be pursuing a Series A next.