Video game to detect early stages of glaucoma developed by Tohoku University

Vaporize meteoroids with a giant laser…for your health!

Many of us as children have probably been scolded for playing too many video games with threats that it will “wreck your eyesight.” There’s still some debate over how true or untrue that is, but a new game has been developed that may definitely save people’s eyesight.

Meteor Blaster is a a simple smartphone browser-based shooting game developed by Sendai Television and the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine. It was patented last July and is hoped to help people detect early symptoms of glaucoma just from playing for five minutes.

▼ The best way to access the game is to use this QR code. You’ll need to turn your smartphone sideways for it to load properly

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Image: Sendai Television

To play, you simply have to hold the smartphone about 30 centimeters (one foot) from your face and operate the stationery laser cannon to shoot meteoroids as they float into your crosshairs. At the same time white dots will appear on the screen, at which time you must press the “CAPTURE” button for interstellar reasons that are beyond our puny terrestrial comprehension.

▼ Since the game is evaluating your eyesight, be sure to use the recommended screen distance

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Image: @Press

After playing through four stages of this, Meteor Blaster then gives you a rundown of your vision in each eye. The screen is divided into 16 sections and a score from one to five is assigned to each area with one being great and five very bad with regards to how well each of your eyes can detect things there.

▼ Left eye results: “The number of captured lights is fantastic. Do your best to keep this condition!”

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Image: © SoraNews24

▼ Right eye results: Although both were good it was interesting to see that my left eye was noticeably stronger

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If scores of five come out, it could be a sign of the early stages of glaucoma and you should consult an expert. Glaucoma is damage to the optic nerves which starts small but gets progressively worse if left undetected. It’s surprisingly common with about one in 20 people over 40 suffering from some form of it.

Even more frightening is that it’s the leading cause of blindness in Japan, largely because people don’t notice it early enough to seek treatment. Professor Toru Nakazawa, who helped develop Meteor Blaster, said: “Glaucoma is a disease that is difficult to notice. There’s an estimated 4.65 million sufferers in Japan, but roughly 90 percent do not go to the hospital.”

▼ I’m going to interrupt this important health information for a moment to show you all my sweet score. I would have done better but a fly flew in my face on stage three.

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Professor Nakazawa adds: “If glaucoma is detected at an early stage, treatment is more effective and in many cases blindness does not occur. By the time it becomes noticeable in your daily life, it is often too late.” 

The game is a really great idea that costs nothing and takes up very little of your time, but can save you a great deal of grief down the road. Online comments were also very enthusiastic about the game, with some knowing all too well the silent dangers of glaucoma.

“This is amazing!”
“People tend to mistake glaucoma for loss of eyesight due to old age.”
“Eye clinics and glasses shops should have the game in their waiting areas.”
“Glaucoma can make you blind even if you have perfect vision.”
“What a great use of technology.”
“Finally a game I can convince my parents to play.”
“Amazing that they can detect glaucoma with a game.”
“I have glaucoma in one eye and can’t see well. I wish I’d known sooner…”
“The music in level four is surprisingly good.”

I was also a little surprised at the production value of this game, possibly due to the involvement of Sendai Television in its creation. A rep from the broadcaster said that they were happy to help reverse the stigma that games are bad for eyesight, and hope to expand it into promotion of eye health in other ways as well.

It certainly is a great development to use video games as a diagnostic tool and to improve our health. I really hope someone can come up with a kidney stone detection game next so I can blast those suckers before they become a problem too.

Source: Meteor Blaster, Sendai Television, The Sankei News, Hachima Kiko, @Press
Top image: @Press
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